In the case of Sesay v The Whitepost Healthcare Group ET/2304345/2018 the Employment Tribunal awarded costs against a claimant after she refused to withdraw her claim after it had been settled.
The facts in Sesay v The Whitepost Healthcare Group
Mrs Sesay (“the Claimant”) brought a claim in the Employment Tribunal against The Whitepost Healthcare Group (“the Respondent”) for constructive dismissal. She instructed solicitors to represent her.
On 5 February 2019 the Employment Tribunal was notified that the claim had been settled via an ACAS-conciliated COT3 settlement agreement.
On 14 March 2019 the Claimant informed the Employment Tribunal that her solicitors had not had authority to settle the claim on her behalf, and asking for her claim to be reconsidered.
At the preliminary hearing to reconsider the decision of the Employment Tribunal (to dismiss the claim) the Claimant gave evidence that on 5 February 2019 she had received a telephone call from her solicitors early in the morning whilst she was in the USA; this call woke her up and she was informed of the terms of a COT3 settlement agreement that had been sent to her solicitors. At that point the Claimant informed her solicitors that she agreed to the terms offered, but later that day she decided that she did not in fact agree to the terms. She had understood that she could go into her solicitors’ offices when she returned to the UK to sign the agreement.
On 9 February 2019 the Claimant returned to the UK and on 13 February 2019 she emailed her solicitors to confirm that she did not wish to sign the COT3 settlement agreement. At that point she was informed that her solicitors had in fact signed the COT3 settlement agreement on her behalf on 5 February 2019.
The decision of the Employment Tribunal
The Employment Tribunal held that the Claimant had given authority to her solicitors on 5 February 2019 that she wished to sign the settlement agreement, and that it had only been later that she had changed her mind. The Employment Tribunal therefore held that the Claimant’s solicitors had actual authority to enter into the COT3 settlement agreement on 5 February 2019.
The Employment Tribunal also concluded that the Claimant’s solicitors also had ostensible (or apparent) authority to enter into the settlement agreement: the Claimant had signed a form of authority, the Claimant’s solicitors had been negotiating the terms of the settlement agreement for a lengthy period of time, and it was reasonable for the Respondent to assume that the Claimant’s solicitors had authority to act on the Claimant’s behalf.
The Employment Tribunal rejected the Claimant’s application for reconsideration on the basis that:
- ACAS had ‘taken action’ to settle the claim under sections 18A to 18C of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996, and that the claim had therefore been validly settled under section 203 of the Employment Rights Act 1996; and
- The Claimant’s solicitors had actual or apparent authority to enter into the COT3 settlement agreement on the Claimant’s behalf
The Employment Tribunal also ordered the Claimant to pay £1,000 towards the Respondent’s costs for the hearing.
Our solicitors’ comments on Sesay v The Whitepost Healthcare Group
Chris Hadrill, partner in the employment department at Redmans, commented on the case: “It is difficult not to have sympathy with the Claimant in this case, but it should serve as a warning to other Employment Tribunal users that you should be careful about informing your solicitors that you agree to the terms of settlement – if you do so then you may be unable to change your mind at a later date.”
The decision of the Employment Tribunal in the case of Sesay v The Whitepost Healthcare Group ET/2304345/2018 can be found here.