The civilised way for employment to end?
A Settlement Agreement is a contract under which an employee agrees that they will not bring a claim and in exchange the employer pays them a sum of money. Often the agreement will end employment and the employer agrees to pay for closure, whether or not there is likely to be a claim. The law sensibly allows an employee effectively to ‘sell’ their employment rights, provided they have independent advice from someone who is qualified and backed by insurance, usually a solicitor specialising in employment law. If it is a deal the employee wants, because the money is attractive, because there is no valuable claim to ‘sell’ and/or because closure is of value to them too, then a Settlement Agreement can be a very good option for everyone. It also allows an opportunity to think through and agree things like dates, references, property and confidentiality, and make sure that any tax advantages are taken.
Usually the employer will put forward terms of agreement and unless the employee refuses to consider it, the employer will supply the written contact. The employee then instructs a lawyer to act for them, who will meet them and advise whether the suggested terms are good for the employee. Each of the terms should be carefully checked and consideration given to anything else that should be added in. Once terms are finally agreed the employee, then the employer, signs up and the agreement is legally binding. If the agreement provides for the employment to end, then it will end on the date stated, without the need for dismissal or resignation.
What happens? You come and see us and we ask you to tell us any relevant background. We discuss with you whether this is the best option for you and we go through the agreement with you so that you know exactly what it means for you. If you appear to us to have a claim that is worth more than you are being offered we shall explain and see if you want us to try to negotiate a better settlement. We look at the terms in detail and if we think that any aspect can be improved in your favour, money or otherwise, then we will talk to you about this and offer to deal with your employer about any changes.
What would we need from you? The agreement you are being offered, any associated paperwork and your contract of employment if you have a copy. We will check the calculations and make sure what you are being given is what you should get. If you have redundancy protection insurance – check your insurance policy if unsure – we can consider that with you. We will give you advice on things like timing, property, tax, references and talk to you about your strategy in looking for the next job. You will have the peace of mind of knowing that we are on your side, we know what we are looking at and no stone which is best not left will be left unturned!
Do you have to sign up? No, not if you decide not to do so. If you don’t then you may be dismissed anyway, without the extra being offered in exchange for signing the agreement. We shall make sure you make a fully informed decision either way, but it will be up to you.
What does it cost you? Nothing, provided the employer pays under the agreement. If at any stage we think you are at risk of paying anything yourself we will tell you at once, but that only happens if you decide not to enter into the agreement at all or your employer refuses to pay what they have promised. Put it like this, we have only once had an employer not pay the fees and they had to go bankrupt in order to get out of it. You are the client but your employer pays, and dealing with a lawyer can be lovely when you are not paying their fees. If several employees are affected we can act for as many employees as desired from one employment and actually it’s an advantage to them as we get to know the way the matter is going and the employer’s approach, but be assured that we treat each client as an individual and confidentiality is absolute.
When and where? If you have been offered an agreement then you can ring us to make an appointment. You do not have to ask anyone else’s permission as you are allowed to choose whatever lawyer you wish. Watch out for any time deadline for accpetance set by the employer and let us know if it is soon. While an agreement can be completed very quickly where that is required, usually the matter takes a few days from when you let us have the form of agreement to when it is signed and becomes certain. We know that by then you want closure and certainty if possible so we aim to see you within a few days of your contacting us, sometimes the same or next day if you wish.
Why come to us? We are employment specialist solicitors who have considerable experience and expertise about settlement agreements, redundancy, discrimination and employment law generally. We care very much about getting the very best for our clients, establishing a good relationship with them and giving very high standards of service. At a time of uncertainty and in relation to something as important as your employment, you need to have confidence in your advisers. We are sure that you will not regret the decision to ask us to act for you. We cover aftercare in the costs so you can feel free to raise future queries or concerns with us without worrying about fees, even after a Settlement Agreement has been signed up and finished. Frances Barker, employment partner or solicitor Sallie Davies will deal with the matter for you.