Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, answers the question:
“Settlement agreements in redundancy situations – what are they used for?
What is a settlement agreement?
Settlement agreements are, generally, a written agreement to provide an employee (or worker) with benefits (e.g. a payment of compensation, a reference, sometimes an apology) in return for the employee’s agreement that they will waive their right to bring such claims, or withdraw them if they have already issued a claim. See this post for a more in-depth analysis of what a settlement agreement is.
Settlement agreements in redundancy situations – why use them?
In my experience, employers use settlement agreements for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to):
- To limit the employer’s risk of claims being brought against it
- As part of an employer’s cultural workplace practice
- To set out in clear and precise terms what each party’s obligations are upon termination of employment
- To ensure an amicable end to the employment relationship
These reasons are analysed below
To limit the employer’s risk of claims being brought against it
In redundancy situations an employer may be making multiple redundancies as part of a workplace restructuring exercise or in an effort to cut costs. Employers are normally aware, in these circumstances, that disgruntled ex-employees may seek to bring claims against it in the Employment Tribunal (for example, for unfair dismissal) if they feel that they have been unfairly treated, and that there is a risk that the employer may lose such a claim; equally, employers generally wish to avoid Employment Tribunal litigation if they can because it can be a time-consuming process which saps management time and can be expensive due to legal fees. What employers do, therefore, to limit these risks is offer departing employees settlement agreements under which the employee will received an ex-gratia financial package (or some other tangible benefit) and in return the employee will agree to waive his or her right to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal upon termination of their employment.
As part of an employer’s cultural workplace practice
Some employers offer settlement agreements even if they don’t think that they’re at risk of a successful claim being brought against them – the offer of a settlement agreement is often treated as a standard administrative exercise upon termination (for example, a redundancy situation) which is intended to implement best practice in the workplace.
To set out in clear and precise terms what each party’s obligations are upon termination of employment
Settlement agreements can be extremely useful as a means of clearly delineating the rights and responsibilities of each party (generally the employee and employer) upon termination of employment in redundancy situations: for example, a settlement agreement may remind the employee of post-termination restrictions that they may be subject to under their contract of employment or, alternatively, commit the employer to provide a reference. Setting down in contractual terms the rights and responsibilities of each party leaves less room for a dispute over what was/was not agreed between the parties and allows for a ‘clean cut’ of the employment relationship once the redundancy takes effect.
To ensure an amicable end to the employment relationship
Some employers offer settlement agreements as a matter of goodwill upon termination of employment, and in order to ensure that their departing employees are ‘taken care of’ post-termination.
As can be seen from the above, there can be many reasons for the offer of a settlement agreement. in a redundancy situation. If you’d like to discuss your settlement agreement with one of our solicitors please call 020 3397 3603 for a no-obligation chat (we offer a free initial consultation).