I’ve been asked a couple of time recently by prospective clients whether I can act for them when they’ve been given a compromise agreement by their employers, usually following redundancy. The answer is almost always yes. Why does the question get asked? Well, often HR departments will, as a service to their departing employees, provide a list of solicitors that will be able to advise on the agreements, because it is a requirement of every properly drafted compromise agreement that an independent solicitor review and explain it and sign a certificate at the end of the document to say they have done so. Indeed, my firm is on many such lists. The employer will usually offer to pay a contribution towards the cost of that advice and in many cases that contribution will cover all the solicitor’s fees in advising on the document. Many people think that they are only allowed to use the law firms on the list provided by HR, but this is not the case.
If you decide not to use one of the suggested law firms that HR provides, it is a good idea to use a solicitor that is experienced in employment law and with compromise agreements. They can be complex documents and advice has to be given on not only the terms of the document but on whether the Employee has any potential claims against the employer that would otherwise be settled by signing the document. My colleagues and I here at Langley Towers deal with compromise agreements every day and we would no more think of advising a client on a big money divorce case than, hopefully, would someone who only advised on divorce or criminal law.
In these turbulent times if you happen to be given a compromise agreement and don’t feel comfortable with the list of law firms given you by HR, for whatever reason, do find a firm that you do want to instruct. Do remember that HR has one concern in these scenarios and that is to get your signature and that of your solicitor, on the document as quickly as possible so that they can relax knowing you aren’t going to sue them. In 99% of cases there will be no objections if you use your own solicitor.
We often act for employees in this situation and we have huge experience of dealing with compromise agreements issued by a vast range of companies, from huge investment banks to small IT companies. If I can help, give me a call.
This article first appeared in the “Docklands” and “Peninsula” newspapers week commencing 6th October 2008