If you’ve been treated poorly by your employer then you may be in a situation where you have to decide whether you want to pursue an Employment Tribunal claim or try and settle your claim (normally via a contract known as a ‘settlement agreement’). In this article Chris Hadrill, the partner in the employment department at Redmans, provides his nine top tips to employees on what to consider when they’re deciding whether to bring an Employment Tribunal claim or sign a settlement agreement
- What claims do you have, and what are the chances of success of those claims?
- What remedy are you seeking from an Employment Tribunal claim?
- Are you interested in settling your matter, or is bringing an Employment Tribunal claim a point of principle for you?
- What is your employer willing to offer to settle your Employment Tribunal claim?
- What other terms are you looking to negotiate into the settlement agreement?
- What wider impact could an Employment Tribunal claim have on you?
- Are you looking for the certainty of a settlement or the potential ‘up-side’ of an Employment Tribunal claim?
- Do you have the time, patience and energy to devote to bringing an Employment Tribunal claim?
- What funding method can you obtain to bring an Employment Tribunal claim?
What claims do you have, and what are the chances of success of those claims?
One of the first things to do is to, based on the circumstances of your case, analyse what potential claims you have – have you been harassed in the workplace, discriminated against, victimised, or unfairly dismissed? Which claims you are able, and choose, to bring will of course have a significant impact upon the prospects of success and value of any Employment Tribunal claim you choose to bring.
What remedy are you seeking from an Employment Tribunal claim?
If you are only seeking compensation (i.e. a financial payment) from your Employment Tribunal claim then it is, generally, more likely that you may be able to settle your claim (either before you issue it or during the life of the claim). If, however, you are seeking another form of remedy (reinstatement or re-engagement, a declaration, or a recommendation) then you might have to seek this through a successful claim in the Employment Tribunal (as it is normally difficult to persuade an employer to re-engage you through a settlement agreement).
Are you interested in settling your matter, or is bringing an Employment Tribunal claim a point of principle for you?
This will, of course, be a key question: if you’re not interested in settling your (potential) claim then there is very little point in entering into settlement agreement negotiations; you will probably be best served in concentrating your energy on preparing your Employment Tribunal claim. If you are interested in achieving a settlement then it’s normally best to approach the other side at a reasonably early stage to try and agree a settlement package.
What is your employer willing to offer to settle your Employment Tribunal claim?
What your employer is willing to offer, and what you are willing to accept, to settle your claim will be very important in determining whether there is in fact any realistic prospect of settling your claim – if you value your claim at £50,000 and your employer is only willing to offer £5,000 to settle it then it’s probably unlikely that there is going to be any form of agreement on settlement terms. If, however, your employer is willing to offer £20,000 and you value your claim at at least £15,000 then it’s much more likely that the parties will be able to reach some form of compromise over the value.
An advantage of a settlement agreement is that you will often be able to be some, or all, of the settlement payment tax-free (if it as compensation for the loss of your employment).
What other terms are you looking to negotiate into the settlement agreement?
In my experience employees are normally looking for more than financial compensation in bringing Employment Tribunal claims (and settling them via settlement agreements) – employees are also interested in agreeing a reference, making sure that the terms of the agreement and the circumstances of their case are kept confidential, and ensuring that nobody at their (previous) employer says anything ‘derogatory’ about them. If these issues that can be agreed with the other side then there is, of course, a much greater chance of settlement agreement terms being agreed and finalized.
What wider impact could an Employment Tribunal claim have on you or your employer?
One of the main considerations with a claim in the Employment Tribunal is the public nature of the forum and, therefore, the potential publicity (whether positive or adverse) that an Employment Tribunal judgment could have for one or more parties to the litigation – all Employment Tribunal judgments are now published online and the parties to the litigation will therefore want to think carefully about what impact any publicity could have on their careers or business.
Are you looking for the certainty of a settlement or the potential ‘up-side’ of an Employment Tribunal claim?
The benefit of a settlement agreement is generally that the parties to the agreement will be (reasonably) happy with the terms that they’re agreeing to (otherwise they wouldn’t enter into the agreement) and, further, a settlement agreement provides finality and certainty for both the employer and the employee. However, agreeing to a settlement agreement does, of course, limit the ‘upside’ to exercising any rights you may have. You’ll therefore have to carefully consider what course of action is in your best interests.
Do you have the time, patience and energy to devote to bringing an Employment Tribunal claim?
Before you embark on a claim in the Employment Tribunal you should be aware that it will potentially be a tough, stressful and drawn-out process: claims came sometimes take more than 12 months to conclude, you’ll have to exercise patience in the pursuit of your claim, and it is often stressful to go through the process for the first time.
What funding method can you obtain to bring an Employment Tribunal claim?
If you’re thinking about bringing an Employment Tribunal claim then you may wish to see whether you can obtain representation from a specialist employment solicitor – the types of funding that you will normally be offered are as follows: ‘no win no fee’ funding, hourly rate funding, legal expenses insurance (if you have insurance funding), and fixed fee funding.