Silent Sackings

24th September 2013

Raising grievances in the workplace can be a bit of a minefield for both workers and employers, but new government legislation appears to make the position of the employer in any kind of work-related dispute far stronger. For example, a worker can now be called into a private meeting with their boss to discuss anything. This may result in an immediate dismissal whether fair or unfair. Should the employee wish to take this to a tribunal, nothing said in that meeting can be used as evidence to support the employee's claims of unfair dismissal.

This legislation is known as a 'settlement agreement' and is an updated version of the previous 'compromise agreement' that used to be used exclusively at the end of a person's employment. This newly updated settlement agreement can now take place at any point in a person's employment if either they or their employers have a grievance they wish to bring to light. It may seem as though the employer now has complete control over whether a person keeps their job or not regardless of performance, but there are set legal requirements they must adhere to before the meeting can take place. There are as follows:

• You or your employer must have the request for the meeting in writing and it must relate to a particular grievance e.g. unpaid wages or sick pay. This means that the employer must inform you of the issue, implying that the meeting cannot be based purely on the personal opinions of the employer.
• You must seek advice from a lawyer or trade union representative before the meeting so as to be prepared for anything that may be brought up.
• The agreement is legally binding only if these requirements have been met and the confidentiality is only guaranteed after a 10-day cooling off period in which the employee has time to deliberate over the settlement or offer reached in the meeting.

Essentially, the legislation offers the employer the chance to raise problems or issues with any worker in a meeting that can result in dismissal, an agreed financial settlement, or indeed nothing at all. It is a set of rules that seems to neither support nor bear down upon the worker and that offers confidentiality in support of the employer i.e. anything can be said in the meeting without fear of being revealed and used at a tribunal for unfair dismissal or any other claim.

There are safeguards in place to protect the employee and it is important to be aware of your rights as a worker and what may occur in the future should you be dismissed from your position. The legislation is mentioned under section 111A of the Employment Act 1996 and came into effect on 29th July 2013.

You can read more on the legislation by clicking here. If you are an employer and this affects your recruitment strategy take a look at our process online, we are a low cost recruitment agency that delivers – view our price list here.