The Season of Goodwill and Settlement Agreements

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The pre-Christmas fire and settle season is now in full swing. As the BBC prepares to entertain us with endless repeats it’s timely to give a warm welcome to some dear old favourites.

The evergreen Captain Mainwaring’s stentorian injunction “don’t give him your name, Pike” still raises a post-prandial chuckle; as does HR’s request that a 63 year old man waive his right to maternity pay. Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch deserves an umpteenth re-run alongside the business owner’s stern requirement that his only full time employee, in an agency where the five other employees are part timers, sign away her rights under the Transnational Information and Consultation Regulations 1999 and the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000.

Then there’s the pervasive worry about discrimination on the ground of gender re-assignment; this year it was applied to a very straight-laced retired army officer leaving his civilian job. Happily the soothing effect of Trethowans coffee and a chocolate biscuit saw his howls of outrage turn to peals of laughter.

It’s also good to see the script writers coming up with new offerings. How about these two:

“You undertake not to disclose to anyone your passwords to any password protected files, software and hardware which you have created or protected and which are on the employer’s or any group company’s computers.”  The emphasis is mine…; or

“In consideration for the employers providing the reference set out in Schedule 2 to this agreement you agree …” followed by a list of obligations including extensive post-termination restrictions. I expected a glowing reference to support the employer’s side of the bargain but found an incorrect statement of my client’s job title and dates of employment followed by half a page of disclaimers. The consideration is clearly insufficient so the obligations are unenforceable. 

Thus far my favourite is the HRBP who invites a departing manager to assert certain statutory claims – which are reserved to the Lord Chancellor alone; and then only on notice to Parliament.

I’m not silly enough to suggest the preparation of serious legal contracts be reserved to lawyers; perish the thought. That’d be like saying Michael Banks should invest his tuppence prudently, thriftily and frugally in the Dawes, Tomes, Mousley, Grubbs Fidelity, Fiduciary Bank (I do hope there’ll be a Christmas re-run of Mary Poppins - it's one of my favourite films). But please, when we draft Settlement Agreements can we keep at least half an eye on Section 203 the Employment Rights Act 1996?