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Urgent employment law advice needed: Settlement agreement

(7 Posts)
LocalEditorBarnet Sat 07-Feb-15 14:50:24

Following a request to their employer for a settlement agreement, a friend has received a verbal agreement from their employer.

The friend has been given 48 hours to consider the terms and sign. They have been told they can seek independent legal advice before signing (in fact, from what I've read, a settlement agreement cannot be validated unless professional legal advice has been sought) but the employer will not put anything in writing. This is posing a problem because the solicitors that my friend has spoken to with a view to obtaining advice have requested a copy of the draft settlement in writing! The employer has said that my friend should accept the agreement, then they will put it in writing, and then my friend can get the legal advice.

What next steps should my friend take? They don't want to accept the settlement terms as they currently stand, so can they insist that their employer puts the draft settlement offer in writing?

prh47bridge Sat 07-Feb-15 17:03:53

It is acceptable for the employer to make a verbal offer but it is not legally binding until it is in writing. If the employee has not received advice from an independent advisor such as a lawyer or an authorised trade union official the agreement is not binding on the employee, only on the employer.

If your friend doesn't want to accept the current offer getting it in writing won't make any difference. Reject the offer. But even if your friend accepted the offer it would not be legally binding.

I would recommend that your friend insists that the employer pays their legal costs. If they refuse it is open to your friend to sign the agreement without taking legal advice, take the money then take the employer to tribunal.

LocalEditorBarnet Sat 07-Feb-15 17:53:32

Thanks for the reply, prh47bridge.

They don't want to accept the offer because they were hoping for more; and yet, want to seek legal advice before rejecting the offer in case they are asking for too much, IYSWIM?

But if I'm understanding what you say correctly, they could accept the settlement, even if they're not happy with it, and then once they've got that in writing, they can take that to a legal professional for proper advice? And if the advice is that they could go back asking for a better settlement, the employer can't say 'no, you verbally accepted the first settlement, and therefore we cannot offer you more'?

LocalEditorBarnet Sat 07-Feb-15 18:11:50

Sorry, I should add that the employer has said that the settlement offered is non-negotiable, and that if they don't give an answer on the settlement within 48 hours then it's off the table and they would then return to work, under a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan).

More background:

1. Pre asking for - and being offered - this settlement, friend questioned with employer whether they should be on a PIP at all, and also informed them that they'd seen a GP re workplace stress and an HR expert for advice.
2. The settlement terms also involve friend working for a further two months, which they feel unable to do (due to high stress levels).

Thanks in advance for any further advice.

prh47bridge Sat 07-Feb-15 21:02:42

If the legal advice is that the employer's offer is poor they can still reject it and demand more even though they have accepted it verbally. If the employer refuses to renegotiate they still have the option of going to tribunal. The employer would not be able to use their acceptance of the verbal offer against them.

LocalEditorBarnet Sat 07-Feb-15 22:43:59

Thanks. Really appreciate your advice smile

JillyR2015 Sun 08-Feb-15 12:00:55

Yes, that's right. The employer will not want the cost of putting it all in writing if the employee is going to reject it though so they might want a view on whether the sum is likely to be acceptable or not before they pay a lawyer to draw it up.

Everything is without prejudice and subject to contract and off the record as it were until that agreement is signed by both sides with the employee having had legal advice from a different law firm on it. Usually the employer will pay something ilke £250 or £500 of the employee legal costs too which is a term in the draft settlement agreement.

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