Companions and settlement agreement discussions

Emma Newbould Employment Solicitor at Forbes Solicitors answers…

Legal right?

There is no legal requirement for your employer to allow you to be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague at a settlement agreement discussion (also known as a ‘protected conversation’) but it is good practice for them to do so.  Allowing you to be accompanied could actually help to progress settlement discussions.

If you receive advance notice of a protected conversation, there is no reason why you cannot ask to be accompanied; although your employer will not be legally obliged to grant your request.

No pressure to accept offer 

Even if you are not accompanied to a settlement agreement discussion, you shouldn’t worry.

You are under no obligation to accept a settlement agreement if you don’t want to.  

Reasonable time to accept

After being offered a settlement agreement, you are entitled to a reasonable amount of time to consider the proposal and to take independent legal advice – you do not need to make a decision immediately.  As general rule, you should be given a minimum period of 10 calendar days to do this, unless you agree otherwise.  

If your employer does not allow you reasonable time to consider a settlement agreement and to take independent advice, this may amount to ‘improper behaviour’.  The normal rule is that any offer of a settlement agreement and any related discussions cannot be used as evidence in a subsequent claim of ordinary unfair dismissal, but where an employer has behaved inappropriately, this rule does not apply.

Answer given on 14 March 2014

IMPORTANT: The contents of this page are for guidance only and do not constitute legal advice. You should consult a solicitor without delay if you require legal advice on a particular employment matter.