Sows’ Ears and Silk Purses
The recent festive season brought more than its fair share of Settlement Agreements as HR teams cleared their decks for the New Year. We see this every year but the novelty this time was that almost all of the agreements I saw failed to hit the spot. My favourites were:
• the 61 year old man required to waive his claims for maternity leave and anti-natal care;
• the full time employee with more than 30 years service required to waive his rights under the Agency Workers Regulations;
• the employee of a small UK charity required to waive claims under the Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations;
• my last client of the year who'd been given two working days to complete voluntary redundancy under a contractual arrangement which left no room for any claims requiring settlement.
Of course anyone can (and many do) cut and paste text from precedents found on the internet or from a document used a couple of times a few months ago. This usually leads to the creation of a decent looking document which, with the addition of a few flourishes and finials, convinces the author it's a watertight masterpiece which bears favourable comparison with the Magna Carta. This is usually a mistake which can end in tears… and a large bill from m'learned friends.
A Settlement Agreement is a serious legal contract underpinned by a significant body of law. None of the agreements I've identified above secured the legal settlement the employer thought it was buying so each of these employers has wasted significant time, energy and money on a pointless exercise. It's easy to get it wrong. You'll make it much easier for yourself to retain an employment lawyer to get your Settlement Agreements right first time and all the time.