CORONAVIRUS SERVICES – During these unprecedented times, Ian Pearson of our Employment Department, is continuing to advise clients via telephone and Zoom/Skype. If you have a Settlement Agreement, then please contact Ian on 07531 852229 for an on-line appointment.
Employment law can be complicated. However, many of the problems employees face have very little law attached to them and are more about relationship difficulties and lack of communication in the workplace.
Speaking to a lawyer is, on occasion, the best thing to do but there are a whole host of on-line resources and other organisations that can help before you contact a solicitor.
What To Do Next...
Grievances – What happens if things are not going right at work? If you have a complaint about the way you have been treated then you have the right to bring a grievance against your employer. This needs to be in writing and help can be found at the ACAS website. If you can sort matters out informally, then by all means try this. If, however, you are forced to raise a formal grievance, then try an be as concise as possible AND always suggest some sort of solution to the problem – this often helps rather than letting the employer make a decision that may not be quite what you wanted.
Disciplinaries – Your employer thinks you have done something wrong. Here your employer should go through a fair procedure and this includes letting you know what you have done wrong, invite you to a meeting to allow you to explain your side of the story, let someone attend with you and then make a ‘fair’ decision. They also have to let you appeal. Being open and honest is usually the best approach to these meetings. Remember to listen carefully and take a full note of what is said. If you are disciplined or dismissed and you think this is wrong, then those notes will need to be reviewed to see if you may have a claim.
Settlement Agreements Please read more information about Settlement Agreements below. Again ACAS have a WEBSITE on the subject and there is a full guide on what should happen READ GUIDE
General Employment Issues For general information on workplace issues visit – GOV.UK. If you need to speak to someone then the Citizens Advice Service have a helpline – 03444 88 9623. There are also local offices in Sedgemoor, Taunton and Yeovil. West Somerset also operate an advice service.
If all else fails then you may have to contact a solicitor. However, this is possibly your last resort as solicitors charge for their services. Therefore, you should be prepared to pay for any advice you get. Fees vary but a one-hour appointment is likely to cost you in the region of £300.
A Settlement Agreement is a legally binding contract between an employer and employee, usually used at the end of the employment relationship and where
there is a potential dispute between the parties. They used to be called ‘Compromise Agreements’ and do the same thing. These agreements have to be in writing, have to be voluntary and have to be signed off by a solicitor (or trade union official).
The main purpose of these agreements is to stop the employee from bringing an Employment Tribunal (and any other) claim against the employer. Settlement Agreements may arise after a disciplinary or grievance procedure, on redundancy, resignation or after a ‘without prejudice’ or ‘protected discussion’.
The ACAS Code of Practice suggest that a minimum of ten days are given for the employee to consider the terms of the agreement, although in practice, they tend to be signed much more quickly. The agreements can look quite daunting and contain a whole raft of legislation that are relevant to employment law. The reason for this is that it is against public policy for an employee to give up their rights to bring a Tribunal claim without taking independent legal advice. Therefore, every piece of legislation relating to the termination of employment or problems during employment needs to have a short clause inserted for the agreement to be legally binding.
There is no obligation to sign a settlement agreement and if you do not then your employer or you will need to resolve any problems a different way – or, perhaps, go to court or tribunal.
It is usual for employers to pay for you to take legal advice. This sum ranges from £250 to £500 usually. Assuming the advice you seek is purely on the agreement, this sum is usually sufficient. If, however, you want to negotiate a different agreement or you decide to pull out and not sign, then you personally will be liable for fees incurred up to that point.
The sums in the agreement will be broken down into taxable payments and those which can be made without deduction for tax – so called ‘payments for loss of employment’. The rules of this can be complicated and change on 6 April 2018. You will also need to indemnify your employer for any tax due, just in case the tax-free payment proves not to be.
Once you have accepted the terms of that agreement, it is usual for the solicitor to send confirmation that advice has been given to the employer together will a bill for the services. This will be addressed to you but marked payable by the employer. Remember, if the employer decides not to pay or the deal falls apart, you will be responsible for the fees. It may be possible to undertake the advice by telephone, if this is the case then your solicitor will arrange an appointment with you. You will need to send the agreement electronically and have a copy in front of you when you talk to the solicitor.
You will also need to provide identification to the solicitor for legal/compliance reasons. This will be your passport or driving licence and proof of address, usually a utility bill less than three months old. For further information please contact Ian Pearson.
Meet some of our Employment Law Team
Stephen Forsey is AmicusLaw's Managing Partner. Having originally qualified as a barrister in London he then went on to work as a Corporate Tax Lawyer at Wragge & Co in Birmingham before returning to the Southwest where he was born and grew up. Having returned to his roots he then ran a large regional multi office law firm before joining AmicusLaw in 2017. Stephen is also chairman of the Devon and Somerset Law Society (DASLS) Practice Management Committee.
With 30 years of legal experience and 20 in employment Ian has seen fads come and go and the wheel reinvented countless times. However, the fundamental issues remain the same and most problems in the workplace are down to management. Today, he specialises in sorting out the root causes of problems that lead to workplace strife.
This approach with an understanding of the real world, and having fun outside interests, lets Ian help those who want a more holistic and caring solution to all that the world throws at them.
Ian is unable to offer a free interview and Legal Aid and no-win-no-fee are not available for employment disputes.