Settlement agreements

If you're planning your exit strategy, Tees can help you get the best deal.

Katherine Jameson, Bishop's Stortford

Expert settlement agreement advice

A settlement agreement is a legally binding agreement between employers and employees. They’re often used in redundancy situations to offer enhanced payments to employees. Usually your employer agrees to pay you an amount of money in return for you agreeing not to take them to an employment tribunal or other civil court in the future.

Whose interests are being protected in a settlement agreement?

For you as the employee, you’ll have certainty about the terms of your exit. For your employer, they’ll have the knowledge that you won’t take them to a tribunal or to court over your redundancy. So there are advantages for both sides. Your employer will need you to take independent legal advice from a solicitor before you sign the agreement and may make a contribution towards the costs of doing so.

How we can help you

Our employment team are highly experienced in dealing with settlement agreements so we can advise you on whether it’s the best route for you to take. We’ll be able to make sure that you get fair treatment from your employer and we may be able to negotiate a better deal for you. We can also discuss any potential claims that you might have against your employer and how a settlement agreement might affect your right to pursue these. And if we don’t think your employer is treating you fairly, we can also advise on legal action.

You're at the centre of everything we do

When you come to us for legal advice about a proposed settlement agreement, we’ll concentrate on getting what’s best for you. We know that it can be a stressful time, so we’ll try to make it as easy as possible by explaining everything in plain English and answering any questions that you have. If you need us to, we’ll talk to your employer for you and negotiate the terms of your agreement with them. We’ll always try to get the best deal for you and we’ll always stand up for your interests. We’re always happy to see you in person, but we’ll keep in touch by phone, email and letter – whatever works for you, so you only need to come to our office if you want to.

Let’s talk!

You’ll find our employment team friendly and easy to talk to. We’ll be with you every step of the way and we’ll help you to make sure you get a fair deal from your employer. So give us a call for a confidential chat and let’s talk about how we can help.

Call our Employment Law solicitors on 0800 013 1165

For an initial chat, at no obligation, or fill out our enquiry form and a solicitor will get in touch.

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What is the difference between a compromise agreement and a settlement agreement?

They are the same thing essentially. In July 2013 the government introduced some changes including pre-termination negotiations and at the same time changed the name from compromise agreement to settlement agreement.

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What does “without prejudice” mean?

It means that any discussions ornegotiations between the parties are confidential and “off the record” and cannot usually be used against the other party, if the negotiations break down and a claim is brought in the court or tribunal. An employer may also commence what is known as a “protected conversation” which is similar. If the employee has been placed under undue pressure or there is no genuine dispute, the discussions may not be “without prejudice” or protected from disclosure. Care should be taken in what is said in such communications, and you should seek specialist legal advice.

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What amount of money should be offered under a settlement agreement?

There is no set method to calculate an amount due under a settlement agreement. At a minimum an employee should normally be paid their notice pay (unless they have been dismissed for gross misconduct) plus any accrued but untaken holiday (if any) and any other contractual payments.

Additional compensation for loss of office will differ depending on the circumstances and facts relating to the termination of employment.  Employers will often consider length of service and what an employee could achieve if they were to take a claim to the employment tribunal.  It is not uncommon for employers to offer between one to four months’ salary on top of contractual entitlements, but there is no one size fits all.  Make sure you take legal advice.

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Will I have to pay tax on my settlement payment?

Payments of up to £30,000, which are not made up of any notice or other contractual elements, can often be paid without any deduction of tax. However, we strongly recommend you take specialist advice from an accountant on the tax treatment of lump sums received , particularly in complex transactions involving, for instance a transfer or sale of shares, alongside leaving employment. At Tees we will work with your accountants and can provide you with specialists to assist you.

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Do I have to pay legal fees for advice on a settlement agreement?

An employer would usually offer to contribute towards legal costs, although there is no legal requirement for them to do this.  The contribution will not necessarily cover all of the legal costs incurred, for example, if long negotiations are entered into with the employer, or the employee wants additional advice. In those circumstances the employee will normally be responsible for those costs unless the employer can be persuaded to pay more. 

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Why do I need a solicitor to sign a settlement agreement?

For the settlement agreement to be legally binding the employee must take independent legal advice so that they understand the terms of the agreement and the implications of signing it.  Once it is signed by both parties it is open (that is, no longer "off the record" as part of a without prejudice negotiation) and binding.

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What should be included in a settlement agreement?

There are certain formalities to be met, regulated by law under the Employment Rights Act. In summary, there will be some essential terms relating to the employee signing away their rights. In addition, the agreement will commonly include terms around any compensation payment to be made, agreed reference and any post-termination restrictions. Terms around confidentiality are also common but subject to limitations, for instance that employees cannot be prevented from making a “whistleblowing” protected disclosure. 

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