In the case of Mr P Ratcliffe v Baker Hughes Ltd:4100573/2016 the Employment Tribunal held that it did not have jurisdiction to consider Mr Ratcliffe’s claim for unfair dismissal due to the COT3 that had been signed on his behalf by his trade union representative.
The facts in Ratcliffe v Baker Hughes Ltd
Mr Ratcliffe was employed by Baker Hughes Limited (“Baker Hughes”). He was made redundant on 18 December 2015 and was dissatisfied with his dismissal. He was a member of the Unite trade union and approached his Trade Union for assistance; he was assisted by a trade union representative, David Lawson, who helped Mr Ratcliffe to engage in early conciliation. Terms of settlement were agreed through discussions involving ACAS, Baker Hughes’ counsel Neil Adam, and Mr Lawson. As a consequence of these discussions settlement terms were agreed and a COT3 form drafted; as part of the COT3 terms a reference was also agreed.
On 17 March 2016 Mr Lawson signed the COT3 form on behalf of Mr Ratcliffe, and Mr Ratcliffe counter-signed on 6 April 2016. On 17 March 2016 ACAS confirmed that a binding agreement had now been reached between the parties; the monies payable under the settlement agreement were subsequently paid to Mr Ratcliffe. After the agreement had been signed Mr Ratcliffe complained that he had not agreed to the offer made by Baker Hughes, and he wrote to the company on 30 April 2016 to confirm this. He subsequently pursued Employment Tribunal proceedings.
On 17 May 2016 Baker Hughes’ solicitors applied to the Tribunal for a preliminary hearing on the basis that the Employment Tribunal had no jurisdiction to consider the claim (on the grounds that a COT3 agreement had been completed).
The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Ratcliffe v Baker Hughes Ltd
The Employment Tribunal held that it had no jurisdiction to consider Mr Ratcliffe’s claims as a valid COT3 agreement had been completed: Mr Ratcliffe could not show that Mr Lawson did not (at the least) have ostensible authority to agree to the terms of the COT3 agreement offered as his representative – the COT3 form was properly entered into, and the agreed settlement terms were implemented.
Our solicitors’ view on Ratcliffe v Baker Hughes Ltd
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Once settlement agreement (or COT3) terms have been agreed and completed it can often be difficult to challenge th0e validity of the agreement (there are only limited circumstances in which this can be done. If you have entered into a settlement agreement or COT3 agreement and want to resile from it then it is recommended that you receive expert legal advice as soon as possible.”
The judgment of the Employment Tribunal can be found here.