Settlement Agreements

In these uncertain times, if your employer makes the decision to terminate your employment they may offer you a settlement agreement. While immediately signing an agreement might be tempting, getting the right legal advice is essential because once you sign, you can no longer take your complaints to an Employment Tribunal.

Pickering & Butters can provide you with the expert advice on the agreement’s content and effect and guide you through the process to its conclusion. We can negotiate with your employer on your behalf to ensure that you get the best possible terms, whether this be compensation, a good reference, an apology or some other type of reparation.

Usually, an employer will agree to make a contribution towards your legal fees so that you can obtain advice on the agreement, and in most circumstances we are able to provide you with the advice you need within the contribution set by your employer. This means in many cases our clients face little to no cost for seeking valuable legal advice.

Whatever you are going through at work, you can rely on the helpful and sympathetic employment law team at Pickering & Butters to guide you through it, offering the expert support you need at every stage.

If you need advice on a settlement agreement which has been presented to you by your employer, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today through our online enquiry form, or by contacting our Stafford office on 01785 603060 or our Rugeley office on 01889 803080.

Why choose our employment law solicitors?

Our team of specialist employment lawyers can offer you a friendly, welcoming service and practical advice about settlement agreements to resolve all types of employment law issues, including:

  • Redundancy disputes
  • Pay disputes
  • Dismissal disputes
  • Discrimination, equal opportunities, harassment, victimisation and workplace bullying
  • Employment contract disputes
  • Disputes arising out of disciplinary procedures, such as conduct and capability

We have experience advising employees at all levels, from junior employees to senior executives. Our highly skilled team is led by Partner, James Wallbank, who has over 12 years’ experience. James specialises in contentious matters, particularly settlement agreements relating to employer-employee disputes and termination of employment.

With local offices in Stafford and Rugeley, our clients come to us from across Staffordshire for our reliable and highly reputed advice. We understand that going through a dispute at work is an extremely stressful situation. It is common to feel frustrated about not being listened to and powerless to change anything, particularly if your employer is a large company.

We are here to validate your feelings and empower you to enforce your legal rights. Utilising our fierce negotiation skills, we will dedicate ourselves to achieving a positive settlement agreement that fully meets your needs and enables you to move on with your career feeling happy and confident.

Answering your questions about settlement agreements

What is a settlement agreement?

If you have a disagreement with your employer, they may offer you a settlement agreement (formally known as a compromise agreement). A settlement agreement is a legal document between you and your employer. It will officially terminate your employment and your employer will likely agree to provide you severance pay (on top of any other pay you are already entitled to). Your employer may also agree to other terms, such as to provide you with a positive reference for your next job.

In return you will agree not to pursue any Employment Tribunal or court claims against your employer and to keep the agreement confidential.

Why do I need a solicitor for advice about settlement agreements?

If you sign a settlement agreement, you will waive your rights to bring a court or Employment Tribunal claim against your employer. It is therefore extremely important that you receive advice on whether the agreement is fair to you and how much money you could receive if you took your claim to court or to an Employment Tribunal instead.

In fact, a settlement agreement can only be legally binding if it is signed off by an appropriately qualified person, such as a solicitor.

Will my employer pay my legal fees?

Because a settlement agreement is only legally binding if you get independent legal advice, your employer may agree to make a contribution towards your legal fees. As this is the common position, we are highly capable at working within these contribution budgets so many of our clients end up with little to no legal fees.

Do I have to sign a settlement agreement?

If you are not happy with the agreement, you can refuse to sign it. If your employer dismisses you because you do not want to sign a settlement agreement, this could amount to unfair dismissal. However, depending on the reasons the dispute arose in the first place, they may be able to dismiss you if they use a fair process and have a fair reason.

Therefore, if the terms offered by your employer are not acceptable to you, it is usually beneficial to try to negotiate rather than refusing to sign any agreement. Ultimately, signing an agreement will help you avoid Employment Tribunal proceedings which can be lengthy and stressful.

How long do I have to decide whether to sign a settlement agreement?

Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, an organisation that helps employers and employees with employment related issues) states that your employer should give you at least 10 days to decide whether to accept and sign a settlement agreement.

However, they are not allowed to put you under undue pressure to sign (for example, by threatening to withdraw the agreement or change the terms to less favourable ones if you do not sign immediately). If they do, the agreement may not be binding on you and you could take further legal action.

The best thing to do is to contact a specialist employment lawyer as soon as your employer asks you to sign a settlement agreement. We can review the terms and provide advice about whether it is in your interests. If it is not, we can enter into further discussions with your employer on your behalf to try to negotiate better terms.

Are settlement agreements legally binding?

A settlement agreement is legally binding if it fulfils certain legal requirements, including:

  • It must be in writing
  • It must be voluntary – your employer cannot unduly influence you into signing
  • It must be related to a specific complaint or set of proceedings
  • You must have received independent advice from a professional such as a solicitor

Can I ask my employer for a settlement agreement?

If your employer does not offer you an agreement, you are well within your rights to ask them to consider one. They do not have to agree but as Employment Tribunal proceedings can be expensive and burdensome for employers, they often have good incentive to agree.

Get in touch with our settlement agreement solicitors in Staffordshire and Rugeley

If you need advice on a settlement agreement which has been presented to you by your employer, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today through our online enquiry form, or by contacting our Stafford office on 01785 603060 or our Rugeley office on 01889 803080.