Settlement Agreement Question: Is there a database of settlement agreements?
I’ve been thinking about my options. I can accept an offer of a settlement agreement or turn the offer down and bring an employment tribunal claim. I’ve been advised by an employment solicitor I have a good case and reasonable chance of getting more compensation if I go to tribunal. My solicitor thinks my employer has made a very low offer thinking I may not pay the employment tribunal fee to bring a claim. I’ve heard there’s a searchable database where anyone can search to see if someone has issued an employment tribunal claim. Does that apply to settlement agreements as well?
Employment Solicitor answer:
The answer to your question depends upon the nature of the settlement and the point at which it was concluded.
Settlements after an employment claim has been lodged at an employment tribunal
In 2016 the Government announced it plans to publish employment tribunal Judgments online. Previously hard copies were stored centrally at the tribunal’s facility in Bury St Edmunds. Earlier this year (2017) the new system went live and to many people’s surprise it became apparent that Judgments recording the dismissal of a claim following the parties having agreed a settlement agreement were also being published online.
Here’s a fictious example of the kind of wording that is being published online:
Claimant: Fred Bloggs
Respondent: The Employers Name
Terms of settlement having been agreed between the parties, a copy of which settlement agreements is within the Tribunal file, the claim is dismissed on withdrawal 28 days from the date this Judgment is sent to the parties unless either party applies for consent to restore before that date.
As you can see, the name of the employee, the employer and the fact of the settlement is recorded and available for anyone to search for, or happen upon.
Many employees will assume when they settle (after issuing a claim but before a final hearing) that the settlement is confidential. But the fact a claim has been issued, and then settled, is being recorded and made available online.
Many employees will be concerned that anyone, including for example a prospective employer, recruiter, or a nosy neighbour, will be able to find out he employee brought an employment claim against a former employer.
Some will ask whether employers might begin to use this online search facility as part of their recruitment process. In some situations if an employee found out he had not been offered a job because he had lodged an employment tribunal claim, he may be able to issue a claim against the new / prospective employer. But in reality, how will the employee ever find out that was the reason he didn’t get the job.
Any employee thinking about bringing a claim in the employment tribunal will need to consider these risk arising from the publication of employment tribunal Judgments online.
What about if the settlement agreement is concluded without he need for employment tribunal proceedings?
In this situation there won’t be any employment tribunal Judgment to publish. The advantage for the employee (and the employer) is that the terms of the settlement agreement can (and usually do) require the parties to keep the terms of the settlement confidential. The scope of the confidentiality obligations may also apply to the existence of the settlement agreement, not just the terms of settlement.
Here’s a link to the Government’s search facility: Employment Tribunal Decisions
Answer provided by a contributing employment solicitor on 4 May 2017.
Read more questions and answers here: Settlement Agreements
IMPORTANT: The above contents are for guidance only and do not constitute legal advice. You should consult an employment solicitor without delay if you require employment law advice.