Help, my boss is picking on me

My boss is picking on me; he’s offered me a settlement agreement to leave, what can I do?

A settlement agreement offer made out of the blue can be a real shock and cause hurt and upset. It can feel like you are being bullied if you’re the only person being asked to leave. But it is important to be objective when you consider your employers reasons and the terms of the offer so you can make the best decision. Does the offer protect you financially for long enough to find another job and move to a happier workplace where you are appreciated? A solicitor will be able to advise you on whether the offer is reasonable.

Paul Samuel , partner at Ashby Cohen Solicitors Limited answers:

The first thing which you should appreciate is that if you have been approached about a settlement agreement, it is likely that, one way or another, you will be parting company from your employer.  This will be either as a result of signing the agreement or via a resignation / dismissal, followed by an employment tribunal claim.  You should not underestimate the stress and delay involved in going to a tribunal, let alone the risk of losing before the tribunal.   The objective should be to maximise your compensation under the settlement agreement.  This will depend on the reason your boss is picking on you.

The first thing would be to look at your employment contract and what notice period you are entitled to receive, remembering that if you have worked for more than two years then you are entitled to one week’s notice for each complete year you have worked up to a maximum of 12 weeks, regardless of what your employment contract says about your period of notice (unless it provides for more).

If you can show that you are being picked on because of your age, disability, gender reassignment, being married or in a civil partnership, race, religion and belief, sex or sexual orientation, you could raise the possibility of a discrimination claim.  A discrimination claim can be brought regardless of how short a period you have worked for your employer.  

Also, a discrimination claim would allow you to claim for the upset which your boss has caused you (“injury to feelings”) and there is no cap on the amount of compensation which a tribunal can award you.  You might also be able to bring a claim against your manager personally as well as your employer.  

If you have complained about a health and safety matter or complained that your employer has breached some legal obligation and that this is the reason why your boss is picking on you, you might be able to bring a claim as a whistleblower where again there is no cap on the compensation.  If none of these features are present, and you have been picked on simply because the boss has taken against you, you might have a claim for ordinary unfair dismissal (assuming that you have worked for long enough so as to be eligible to bring an unfair dismissal claim).  

Under Government proposals there will shortly be a cap on your compensation award for unfair dismissal of one year’s salary (or if your salary is above £ 74,200 per year the cap is £ 74,200).  Whatever the basis of your claim, you would be able to claim a basic award which is equivalent to your statutory redundancy entitlement (capped at £450 for each full year you worked) and your compensatory award would depend on how soon you are likely to get another job at the same or a similar salary and benefits.  

It is obviously sensible for you to contact a specialist employment law solicitor to advise on the details of your situation.
Answer dated 26 April 2013.

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.

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