can my employer prevent me from telling colleagues about my redundancy?

(21 Posts)
WONAR Sat 03-Oct-15 21:37:08

pretty much as the title is^

I'm being made redundant (long story, and I'm definitely bitter about it, but that's another post!), and at my 'finding out' meeting, my employer said that everything is confidential and if I tell any colleagues I'm leaving before my final week, I'll be in breach of contract.

They're effectively making me a liar for the next 2 months. We're a small company and I talk to each person every day. For this reason, I said at the time that it "seems bizarre", but he repeated himself and basically threatened me with instant dismissal if I let anyone know I'm leaving before then. The thing is, everyone already knows who's leaving, as only 2 of us had a third consultation meeting. I hate that I'm effectively being forced to lie to people that I like and who all know the truth anyway. Can my boss legally do this? (I've signed no documents giving permission for this.)

OP’s posts: |
howtorebuild Sat 03-Oct-15 21:41:35

Will you be close to these colleagues in two years, do you need the money and a reference?

petalsandstars Sat 03-Oct-15 21:44:06

Can you not say something like "I am unable to talk about that" as a stock response - let your colleagues draw their own conclusions.

ivykaty44 Sat 03-Oct-15 21:46:03

No comment

WONAR Sat 03-Oct-15 21:49:49

yes to all three how
petals / ivy that's what I'm doing but as I said, I hate being forced to lie to people I like and respect.

I've never had another job where my employer laid down these rules, so I wanted to know if they're just trying to scared me or if I'm actually under a legal obligation.

OP’s posts: |
Nydj Sat 03-Oct-15 21:58:16

How about asking your employer which bit of the contract you would be breaching my telling your colleagues the truth?

captainproton Sat 03-Oct-15 21:58:17

Are they paying you more than statutory redundancy? Because i suppose they could ask you to keep quiet and you get paid a bit more.

I got paid off from my old company and wasn't allowed to say why I was leaving and just had to resign. Really though they kind of forced me out due to ill health. However the 4 months salary sort of made up for having to pretend. In hindsight I don't think I was able to work for much longer anyway and was just hanging on.

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tribpot Sat 03-Oct-15 22:04:34

This sounds like a settlement agreement or compromise agreement rather than a true redundancy. I'm a bit hazy on the specifics but I know friends of mine have taken a wedge of cash to sod off when times got hard at my ex-company and one of the conditions was not to talk about it to anyone. It's a sort of cheap version of redundancy in that you pay people to leave, you'll say they got made redundant if asked, but you don't go through a full redundancy process.

I think you should have been offered access to legal advice as part of the deal - if you haven't been offered that I'd tell them no deal as I would suspect it could be because you've got a case against them and they're trying to pay you off before you realise.

Fizrim Sat 03-Oct-15 22:07:58

This would be more usual with a compromise agreement than with redundancy. But I wouldn't see it as you having to lie - as pp said, you can just say you can't discuss that and they can draw their own conclusions.

WONAR Sat 03-Oct-15 22:09:57

Nydj I may well do that as there's another issue I have to speak with him about...

captain nope, if I was in that position I think I would have done the same as you!

OP’s posts: |
Fizrim Sat 03-Oct-15 22:11:59

A compromise agreement is not redundancy though - if all the staff have been through the consultation procedure, then it does sound more like a redundancy consultation (if there is no Union representation or employee rep available then you have to consult with the staff members individually).

Have they said why they want to keep it confidential? Do you have any previous issues with the company (you mentioned feeling bitter ...) or are they just trying (and probably failing!) to stop morale falling through the floor!

captainproton Sun 04-Oct-15 02:24:55

Thing is, if you make a fuss they might not be so generous. Don't burn a bridge, especially if you work in an industry where everyone knows everyone. Employers are not officially allowed to give bad references but if someone asks over a pint of beer...

Get independent legal advice but don't advertise it to your employer.

daisychain01 Sun 04-Oct-15 05:10:06

You have every right to seek independent legal advice and I think you shouldn't have to accept an offer made to you until your solicitor has scrutinised the offer and can tell you if this is good or if you can seek a more attractive deal.

InternationalEspionage Sun 04-Oct-15 05:21:07

What does your exit (settlement / compromise / redundancy) agreement say?

Have you signed it yet?

You need to take legal advice. A couple of days delay in signing is normal for this. Gagging causes are normal (if paid for!) but your employer would be wise to agree a statement / communication response with you, so neither of you are left in an uncomfortable or undesirable position. You can propose the wording of this statement yourself...they can agree or amend. This should be explicitly included in your exit agreement.

Good luck.

LeaveMyWingsBehindMe Sun 04-Oct-15 05:35:23

Yes I agree, it's obviously part of your compromise agreement that they will want control of how and when it is announced officially. Presumably they are giving you more than the legal mimimum requirement as a pay-off and that's how they can demand this, it comes with caveats.

I am with ivy if your colleagues already know or suspect then just field every question with 'no comment' and they'll get the message. That way you are telling them, but you are not in breach of your compromise agreement.

DoreenLethal Sun 04-Oct-15 06:55:04

Employers are not officially allowed to give bad references

Employes can give whatever references they want. If an employer lies then you might be able to take some action but what makes you think they cant give a bad reference?

Fizrim Sun 04-Oct-15 08:59:57

If it is a compromise agreement, it is usual to agree a reference that the employer will send to companies who ask for one. Companies are under no obligation to give someone who has been a poor worker an excellent reference. They are obliged to stick to the facts and not give a poor reference where it is untrue - but it doesn't mean they have to give a glowing reference every time. There would be no point in references if they did!

Dafspunk Sun 04-Oct-15 09:06:06

Employers are not officially allowed to give bad references

It's very irresponsible to say things like this as it's absolutely not true.

MrsCampbellBlack Sun 04-Oct-15 09:11:16

If it is a settlement agreement your firm will pay for you to see a solicitor anyway.

Is it a settlement agreement or actual redundancy - not sure which really from what you have described.

But it is normal with a settlement agreement for it to be confidential.

LeaveMyWingsBehindMe Sun 04-Oct-15 10:05:47

No, a compromise agreement isn't technically redundancy but sometimes redundancy will be used as the official reason for firing someone when there is an issue or a difference of opinion/expectation over the role, and it can easily be got around by a slight internal restructuring or re-branding of the redundant person's role, before they recruit a replacement. Smoke and mirrors.

Employers can get around the bad reference thing by either refusing to give one or by omitting all of the obvious things that one might say in a good reference. A reference can say as little as 'I confirm Joe Bloggs worked for us from blah until blah in the position of blah.' It doesn't need to wax lyrical. But a very blunt and basic reference will often suggest there hasn't been the best of working relationships, especially if it's coming from a small company where there will be no huge HR department and standardised letters.

Do you mean from your response to captain that you are only being paid the basic statutory minimum redundancy amount? Because if so, I fail to see how they can hold anything over you.

captainproton Sun 04-Oct-15 18:31:53

No I got more Than statutory. When I worked in recruitment and ran agency staff, we were categorically told that it was illegal to give a bad reference even if the guy was a drunk on watch (seafarers). We could only confirm a person did or did not work for us.

I know that in really bad cases our manager would have an off the record chat with a client if he felt a person was bad news.

I may be wrong then, or the law has changed now it was a while ago.

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