Category Archives: Relationship

Romance and the workplace: should employers regulate?

Romance and the workplace: should employers regulate?

Recent studies indicate that one in five people met their significant other through work. This outranks online dating, introductions through mutual friends and meeting at a bar or club.
Therefore, when it comes to an employee’s right to a private life and the employer’s right to protect its business interests, it is crucial to adopt a balanced framework and accompanying policies. Such policies should express clearly that a company has no wish to interfere in the private lives of their employees, however it is necessary to ensure that all employees, regardless of their seniority or job title, act in an appropriate and professional manner at all times.
The impact of romantic relationships in the workplace varies, and although it may be argued in some cases that the success of a company can be measured by the success of these relationships. It is important to acknowledge the risks and dangers office relationships can have to the culture, performance and integrity of the business.
Employers face having to deal with an increase in personal relationships at work. Whether its personal spats invading a professional environment, pillow talk risking the confidential integrity of the business or the effects of divorce between staff members, it is pertinent for employers to implement relevant policies to protect business interests and effectively run their organisation.
Encouraging honest communication between an employee and employer is vital. Employers should establish with staff members their expectations that employees will keep their private and professional life separate to avoid the risk of relationships crossing over departments or individuals entering into relationships for their own professional gain, the company must consider the necessary safeguarding measures.
The initial precautionary step an employer can take, is to review the current staff handbook for any existing regulations concerning workplace relationships. In order to effectively manage any potential negative issues, employers may want to implement guidelines that employees must adhere to. For example, a company can require employees to notify and disclose an ongoing close relationship for which a relevant impact assessment can be carried out. This way the business is aware of the type of relationships that are developing, can manage the potential problems which may occur and identify what steps need to be taken to protect the business. In addition, an employer can apply policies which prohibit any romantic associations between staff.
The drafting of such policies should be tailored to the company’s needs and interests, with emphasis on the core fundamentals an employer expects of its staff. It should inform the individual that their conduct is to act appropriately and in the best interests of the company, without any impairment of their judgement or undue influence on their behaviour from their significant other. To maintain an honest and transparent relationship with the company to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. To act with integrity, therefore avoiding any preferential treatment between senior level staff and their juniors. Finally, to retain a professional manner in all dealings with and on behalf of the company, including their etiquette when communicating both internally and externally with their partner.
FG Solicitors are experts in all areas of Employment Law and HR and we can guide your business through any difficulties you may face like this one. Feel free to call us on 0808 172 9322 for a no obligation discussion.

Settlement Agreements – A Perfect Ending!

160519 Settlement AgreementSUMMARY: Learn more about settlement agreements with the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.  

Q: When can we use a settlement agreement?

A:   Settlement agreements are often used to resolve workplace disputes, and to give the employer the certainty that once the agreement is signed there will be no subsequent employment tribunal claim from a disgruntled employee.  More often than not, the employment relationship will have broken down. The focus then is usually on avoiding unfair dismissal and discrimination claims. A whole raft of statutory employment rights and breach of contract claims can also be compromised.

There does not necessarily need to be a dispute as settlement agreements can be used in a variety of other circumstances where the employment will end.  For example, where there are performance or ill health issues, a voluntary exit or a restructure.

Settlement agreements are not however always about the employment relationship ending, as they can be used at any time during the employment relationship to resolve workplace disputes. For example, if there has been a complaint about how holiday pay has been calculated.

We would recommend that where a settlement agreement is being contemplated, legal advice is taken before any discussions take place with the employee so that any legal risks are identified and then can be properly managed.

Q: What are the benefits of using a settlement agreement?

A:  A settlement agreement allows an employer to manage legal, commercial and reputational risks all in one go in the knowledge that there will be no tribunal claim.  Significant management time, stress and expense can be saved.

Terms can also be agreed on issues that a tribunal would be unable to address. For example, the offer of a positive reference; or the introduction of post termination restrictions, where the existing contract is silent on the employee’s activities once they have left.

Settlement can also keep a dispute out of the public eye and be subject to strict confidentiality provisions.

These benefits need to be balanced with the fact the employee will want something in return, no matter how at fault they may be. Money is usually the main consideration but the circumstances may dictate an entirely different exit package.  There are also restrictions on an employer’s ability to compromise personal injury and accrued pension rights claims.

Q: Are there any essential requirements which need to be complied with to make the deal binding?

A: The following are essential to ensure that the employee is not able to bring an employment tribunal claim:

  • The settlement agreement must:
    – be in writing;
    – identify the complaints to be compromised; and
    – state that it satisfies certain legal requirements.
  • The employee must also have received independent legal advice.

A poorly drafted agreement or one which has been incorrectly signed may leave the door open for an employee to bring a tribunal claim, even if they have already been paid a sum of money.

Q: How long should we give an employee to consider a settlement agreement?

A: An employee should generally have at least 10 days to consider the settlement agreement and obtain legal advice. A shorter period could lead to allegations of undue pressure, permitting reference to the settlement offer in a subsequent tribunal claim, if settlement is not reached.

If there is a commercial imperative requiring a shorter period, legal advice should be taken.

Q: Do we have to pay for the employee’s legal advice?

A: An employer is not obliged to pay the employee’s legal costs.  To get the job done, an employer will often choose to make a contribution.  A good starting point is £250 plus VAT. The following factors may demand a higher contribution: locality, seniority of the employee and the complexity of the case.

Q: Can we recycle a settlement agreement used in the past for a different employee?

A: We would caution against recycling for two reasons:

  • Each employee’s circumstances are different; and these circumstances need to be taken into account in the agreement. A one size fits all approach will not provide the employer with the best possible protection; and may give no protection at all.
  • Any changes to the law may require amendments being made to the agreement.

Contact Details

If you would like to explore whether a settlement agreement may be the best option for your business where you have a workplace problem – please contact:

fgmedia@fgsolicitors.co.uk

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.