Resolving disputes – Settlement Agreements
Since the end of July this year, there have been some significant changes in the way in which employers can handle disputes. This has been discussed at length for some time, but the first of these changes has finally come into being.
I have often been asked by employers whey they can’t just have “grown-up” conversations about a severance payment with their employees if things are clearly (to them anyway) not working out. The problem with that approach is that (in the absence of an existing dispute) if the discussions did not go the way the employer wanted, the employee could have used that discussion as evidence in a tribunal that any subsequent disciplinary or capability process leading to dismissal was pre-judged and therefore a “sham.”
With the new-style settlement agreements which came into force on the 29th July, it is now possible to have such a conversation in relation to ordinary unfair dismissal cases
But be warned - The new rules will not apply to automatically unfair dismissal cases (such as whistle-blowing) or to discrimination. And it will be necessary to play by the rules; “improper behaviour” from an employer will mean the protection is lost, so please take advice before you proceed.
If a settlement agreement does not work, or is not attempted, the next step would ordinarily have been for the employee to go to the tribunal. Soon this will involve two important additional steps. The first of which is early conciliation. This is due to be introduced by April 2014, but it is rumoured that the government wants this date brought forward. As and when this happens, this article will be updated.
Posted on 19 Nov 2016