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Can I be given a 'compromise agreement' while on maternity leave? Can you recommend a sh*t hot solicitor????

(51 Posts)
mummyc Tue 18-Mar-08 13:32:12

Am feckin furious.

Had a phone call yesterday from the director of my department at work and at her request went into work this morning (with 8mo DS who's doctor's appointment I had to move!!) expecting to get a 121 version of a bigger announcement they are doing today and instead got given a 'compromise agreement' ie bit bigger than redundancy offer and told to contact a solicitor. Can they do this? They say my role is redundant but I wasn't going back to that role, was due back in May to a different job same grade. They are recommending some jobs to apply for which are either temp (maternity cover) or more junior. I am the breadwinner in our house and we took a new mortgage on a bigger house in Jan, making room for DS and future siblings, so need to earn again. Have been there 9.5 years and was on a global senior exec fast track thing, face doesn't seem to fit any more though. Anyone know of any brilliant employment lawyers with a motherhood specialism? South East.

Thanks!

flowerybeanbag Tue 18-Mar-08 13:43:16

mummyc what happened to the job you were supposed to be going back to, is that redundant?

Not uncommon to get a compromise agreement as part of a redundancy, so from that point of view there's nothing wrong with it as such. Interesting to hear they are offering you a compromise agreement but also recommending you apply for other jobs.

flowerybeanbag Tue 18-Mar-08 13:47:08

Oh, and as well as what happened to the job you were supposed to be going back to, is there nothing else suitable for you? You should get first dibs on anything suitable in a redundancy situation during maternity leave.

clarinsgirl Tue 18-Mar-08 13:48:51

If there are other jobs in the Company of equivalent grade available then you are entitled to apply for these before accepting a compromise agreement.

Are lots of people in this situation (i.e. facing redundancy)? If they are then unfair dismissal might be difficult to prove.

Is the compromise agreement attractive? If it is and you think you can get another job then this might be a good option (make sure its not voluntary redundancy or you would invalidate mortgage protection if you have it).

HappyMummyOfOne Tue 18-Mar-08 19:58:14

If the roles are being made redundant, your maternity leave doesnt give you any extra rights other than they must offer you any vacant position in the company that is suitable.

I think unfair dismissal would be hard to prove in this case as it looks like your being made redundant and not technically dismissed.

mummyc Tue 18-Mar-08 20:27:10

Hi flowerybeanbag, the role I left is apparently redundant, although I'd already agreed to work in a different role and no word on what's happened to that. Will be interested to see what happens to the guy who'd been given my old job.

On other roles, they reckoned that there wouldn't be any at my grade (and I'd agreed I was going back 4 days a week not full time, which is also a problem now) and without meaning to sound childish I really don't want to move down the ladder, I worked damn hard to get where I am and consistently scored in the top 10% of my grade on every measure going, which suggests to me that this isn't in any way merit based.

I feel like they are leaving me no choice but to go, the payment is a fairly big amount but less than I think I deserve in the circumstances. I'm so sure that if I'd been in the office over the past couple of months I wouldn't be in this situation. Interestingly, the other senior mothers in the department have had the same treatment. Flexible working and leaving on time to collect your child from nursery seem to be too much trouble. These are the two factors that are making me angry although I'm probably being too emotional about it all. Just saw myself having a long and happy career there and have had no reason to expect otherwise, is a bit of a bolt from the blue. And it really makes my personal life tricky, what with my DS very happy at a nursery close to the office but miles from home and a big new mortgage. Can't imagine a new employer is the easiest of places to transition back into working life, what with no network or cultural know-how or anything at all in fact.

What I would have expected would have been to be put at risk with my peers and to apply for roles, that way surely they get to keep the best people? But this seems like a very specifc we've-decided-you're-out thing, which I've never even heard of before.



Sorry for the crappy grammar by the way, still in a bit of shock!

mummyc Tue 18-Mar-08 20:32:13

HappyMummyOfOne I guess I was under a false impression that being on maternity would make me less vulnerable not more vulnerable. Thanks for the clarification, you must have posted while I was getting DS to sleep mid-vent!

So can anyone point me to a good solicitor? Any idea if the compromise amount is ever negotiable or should I take it and run before time is up and I end up getting potentially less cash? They've set my termination date at end April.

Thanks everyone.

clarinsgirl I didn't take the mortgage protection out, might be the last time I do that!!

flowerybeanbag Tue 18-Mar-08 20:53:14

Compromise amount is definitely negotiable. They have to pay your legal fees to a 'reasonable' amount to get a compromise agreement checked over.

Being on maternity leave does make you a bit less vulnerable in that if there is something suitable available they can't ask you to compete with other employees for it, it must be offered to you.

When you say you had agreed to come back 4 days, was this a flexible working request you'd put in and had been agreed on the basis of the new job you were supposed to go back to? Had your contract actually been varied officially?

Are there no suitable roles at all, or just none on the basis of 4 days a week?

Can't recommend a solicitor I'm afraid but can hopefully help you clarify what you need and what your options are.

The 'we've decided you're out' scenario isn't that unusual really, but interesting to read that you don't think it's merit based in any way. Do you really think it's purely about wanting to work 4 days a week?

mummyc Wed 19-Mar-08 10:48:54

They're not making the new structure public so I don't know how much truth is in the 'no suitable roles' until the dust settles and it's too late. From what I can find out the guy who was covering my job is moving with the role as it changes shape, so it's not technically the same job, and I don't believe that something similar to the new job doesn't exist as that area has been given a higher priority now but have no way of knowing.

I hadn't had a new contract for doing 4 days and the new job, had been agreed verbally and discussed throughout my maternity leave, and then everything went quiet, so I had arranged last week to go in today and get it all sorted, which is now obviously pointless and a bit cheeky of them not to let me know what was going on I think.

I could probably get a more junior job doing 5 days a week but this would leave me short on the mortgage with higher childcare costs and be an effective demotion, not sure my pride would deal with that and would like to think I could do better. Although am terrified about the prospect of finding a job of a similar calibre as a new mum who hasn't worked since last summer and with the need to work around childcare. Don't think it will happen.

So my options seem to be:
-take money and shut up
-fight for more money and risk losing what's on offer
-take a lower status and pay job and live with it

with either of the top two I then have to sell the house I've just bought and / or try to get an equivalent job elsewhere as a returning mum hmm

Not sure I can stomach going back, not sure I'm brave enough not to with my responsbility to provide.

BoysOnToast Wed 19-Mar-08 10:53:05

best employment lawyers in the country are Withers and co apparently.

i had some advice from them on a mat leave issue (co tried to fire me by fabricating stuff). by the time i left the 'disciplinary meeting' they had called me into, they were licking my boots. v satisfying

kaz33 Wed 19-Mar-08 10:56:48

You need a solicitor, no recommendations, Simmons & Simmons ( where I used to work) have a well renowed employment department but you would no doubt get someone junior. A smaller firm with an employment specialism might be better.

- the compromise agreement is negotiable
- they will pay for your reasonable legal costs, probably up to a set amount - have a look at compromise agreement see what it says
- when are you meant to be going back to work? Have you agreed a date?

mummyc Wed 19-Mar-08 11:10:03

You're right there is a contribution to legal costs. I'd agreed to go back at the start of May but was yet to confirm in writing as wanted to confirm the new role and all had gone quiet...

Maternity leave is officially over on 1st July, they said I could defer the process until then but intimated that the compromise agreement wouldn't be available then.

Any recommended questions to ask a solicitor so I instruct a good one?

flowerybeanbag Wed 19-Mar-08 11:17:23

mummyc you do need to see a solicitor. As your contract hasn't yet been changed from 5 days to 4, they should be offering you anything that is available on that basis. Doesn't mean they can't offer you a compromise agreement but it's important that the amount negotiated takes that into consideration.

I'd want to know about a solicitor's experience of representing women on maternity leave with their jobs under threat, I'd want someone with experience and knowledge of your industry, and I'd want to know about recent compromise agreement's they'd negotiated as well.

mummyc Wed 19-Mar-08 11:24:33

Great, thanks flowerybeanbag. Are solicitors a get-what-you-pay-for kind of thing where I might be better off shelling out some money? I know that sounds obvious but I've no experience of these situations and while am happy to do so don't want to spend loads if it makes little difference.

flowerybeanbag Wed 19-Mar-08 11:31:12

agreement, good grief, apologies for appalling use of apostrophe!

You get good and bad solicitors like everything else. Following an acquaintance's recent experience with a cheap high street-type 'employment specialist' hmm I'd be inclined to go for a fairly big firm, pay a bit more, and be very sure you're confident with them when you speak to them, and ask about their experience of relevant things.

flowerybeanbag Wed 19-Mar-08 12:30:21

just running in with another thought - if the compromise agreement won't be on offer for long, what are they saying will happen if you don't take it? What job are they proposing that you return to on no less favourable terms and conditions or are they going to make you redundant with less favourable terms but no compromise agreement?

I'm not asking you, these are questions I would expect your solicitor to ask your employer.

Sorry, rushing off again but wanted to get that in.

MrsRecycle Wed 19-Mar-08 12:38:04

Also check your home insurance policy for legal cover.

kaz33 Wed 19-Mar-08 12:47:19

A compromise agreement is basically an agreement where you get a payoff for agreeing that you will not sue them. The fact that they are offering you such an agreement surely means that they feel that they are on shaky ground.

The accept or else, is bullying! What is "or the else?" They make you redundant with a bog standard redundancy payment I assume.

I negotiated a settlement with S&S - I suggested voluntary redundancy and they agreed, suggested a figure, I muttered unfair dismissal/constructive dismissal and they capitualted and accepted my amount.

I think the louder you shout, the more you get - one other thing to think about is the reference that you get. As you are breadwinner, you want a top notch reference - you can ask them to provide a reference and then you can quibble if you don't like it. When they are asked at a later date for a reference they must then send the agreed reference.

On legal advice you need two things:
1. Advice on your rights NOW - that should be reasonably cost effective as it is an exploratory conversation where you provide info and the solicitor lets you know what the law is.
2. If you agree to a compromise agreement then advice on it paid by employer.

You need a annoying solicitor who likes to cross the T's and fight all the corners. How about one of those full on west end firms!

LadyMuck Wed 19-Mar-08 13:07:45

I have a vague memory that PPH might be able to recommend a solicitor.

In terms of what to do: presumably you have contacts within the company - what is the word on the street regarding your future/how you are currently seen? I have to say that it is possiblethat the company may just trying to be sound you out to see if you are wanting to be on the mummy track - the %age of high potential female staff who stay on track with the careers after maternity leave is pitifully low, though ime it is those who are the main breadwinners who stick around the longest. That doesn't of course mean that your current position is acceptable - it isn't. But there is still a commercial reality that actually for a large number of women on maternity leave this sort of offer could be quite appealing.

So firstly I would try to have the required informal conversations with colleagues/mentors to see how you are being rated currently. If you do definitely want to keep working at this company then I think that you need to make that very clear asap and start exploring seriously what options there are. Make sure that HR are in the loop too so that there is no misunderstanding on their side of what your wishes are. Definitely get a good lawyer, but I wouldn't go in with all guns blazing unless you are ready to burn your bridges.

libralady Wed 19-Mar-08 13:30:00

mummyc

Do you by any chance work for one of the top 5 banks?
It's just that some of the terminology you have used seems familiar.

'I could probably get a more junior job doing 5 days a week but this would leave me short on the mortgage with higher childcare costs and be an effective demotion, not sure my pride would deal with that and would like to think I could do better. Although am terrified about the prospect of finding a job of a similar calibre as a new mum who hasn't worked since last summer and with the need to work around childcare. Don't think it will happen.

So my options seem to be:
-take money and shut up
-fight for more money and risk losing what's on offer
-take a lower status and pay job and live with it'

If you do, as I suspect, you have mentioned taking a lower grade job, which would mean a reduction in money etc.

However, there is a re-levelling policy to avoid redundancy which quite often leaves individuals on the same salary for doing a lesser grade job. This may apply to you if you work for the company that I think you do.
If you need to 'talk' confidentially e-mail me lmcc2007atbtinternetdotcom obviously replacing the at and the dot.

LLxx

Piccalilli2 Wed 19-Mar-08 13:37:32

Solicitors - Lewis Silkin are very, very good and experienced at advising on maternity issues particularly involving city employers.

mummyc Wed 19-Mar-08 13:42:21

Word used to be that I'm highly regarded, but the roles that were mentioned yesterday was very very junior. I did wonder if they thought they were doing me a favour but I've been clear all the way through that I want to continue my career as I enjoy it, as well as having to earn.

Will call on some colleagues who tend to know what's what to find out about vacancies this afternoon. Am nervous of burning bridges as you advise!

Would be easier if I was calm enough to decide what I want out if it. I love working there and was looking forward to going back but I hear it's become pretty brutal over the 9 months I've been out. And I feel really betrayed now and I'm not sure I want to go back as much as I did. Looking at this from another angle, I'm afraid that if I do go back I'd regret passing up the opportunity to make a lifestyle change, even if unscheduled. Just don't know what to do for the best for me and my family and the clock is ticking!

The 'what else' I think is a bog standard redundancy, and the jobs they are suggesting I go back to at present are one or two grades below mine, maybe 40% salary drop and major drop in benefits - car, healthcare, pension, share schemes etc.

I need to decide what I want from this before instructing someone, don't I? It could all go very wrong otherwise! Have spoken to 2 firms I've had recommended, one in the city and one more local, both come in about the same price ie loads! If I get an enhanced compromise through negotiation what would be your guess at the number of hours involved? 20? More? Or if I make a dismissal claim? 100? More? Trying to decide how much to gamble here and am bricking it a little as we can't afford to take too many risks financially, but I don't want to get screwed through being scared.

Pinkjenny Wed 19-Mar-08 13:43:53

Mummyc - I am, sorry was, an Employee Relations Manager and I was given a Compromise Agreement whilst on maternity leave in November. The answer is no, they should only offer you a CA if there is a genuine dispute, which I'massuming there isn't really, redundancy doesn't make it so.

I suppose ultimately, a company can do whatever they want! I was extremely upset when this happened to me, especially as I knew that the 'redundancy' was a smoke screen for the fact that my boss disliked me. But I made my decision, which was a bit easier for me considering my job(!), based on the fact that the amount of money I was offered by way of a CA was way in excess of any amount I would have been awarded by an Employment Tribunal. DH wanted me to tell them to shove off and do their worst, and refuse the CA, but in my heart of hearts I knew that they obviously didn't want me back, and I took the money and went.

The only other advice, bar the lawyer bit which you are already doing, is that it may be best to raise a grievance at some point over the next week. To enable you to do this, write down everything that was said during your conversation with the director.

Wishing you luck x

mummyc Wed 19-Mar-08 13:46:36

LL and P2, I don't work in the city or for a bank, just a big company that seems to be becoming a bit intolerant of mothers - everyone I know on maternity leave or working flexibly has had the same treatment yesterday. Just that as LM said this is good news for some of them, but not so much for me.

flowerybeanbag Wed 19-Mar-08 13:46:55

pinkjenny why should they only offer a compromise agreement if there is a dispute?

It's quite common to have one as part of a redundancy and surely they can offer one whenever they like anyway? They may be taking a risk by doing so in terms of possible constructive dismissal, but nothing saying they shouldn't do so, surely?

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