Discrimination at Work: Is a Settlement Agreement a Good Option?

Let’s assume for the purposes of this article, that you believe you have suffered discrimination at work. We feel it’s important to point out that to be able to establish this properly you really do need to have taken advice from a qualified professional who has experience of dealing with issues relating to the Equality Act 2010. But assuming that you are sure, what’s next?

Is time a consideration?

The short answer is yes. It really is best to act as quickly as possible in these matters. You have a cutoff period of three months after the discrimination has taken place to get your complaint in. That shouldn’t stop you still trying to resolve the problem informally first, but time does matter.

What outcome do you actually want?

Tribunals take time – sometimes you have to wait up to 12 months from when you make your claim – and they can be very stressful. So if you’re looking for a quick solution and/or could really do without additional strain, because discrimination alone takes its toll, then perhaps an exit plan via a Settlement Agreement might be a better option. The other point to consider is whether you actually want to stay working for your employer anyway. Quite often the answer to that question is no.

Possible steps to take…

First off, it’s always worth trying to resolve the problem informally. Raise your concerns with your employer. Show them the evidence you have – be that emails, paperwork, details of conversations etc. And make sure you’ve familiarised yourself with their grievance policy and procedure; it won’t be lost on them that you know what your rights are…

Then be aware that it is often worth putting your informal complaint in writing anyway. For a start, your employer has a responsibility to protect you from discrimination, so they need to be told. But also if, for whatever reason, you find yourself being victimised later on, you have evidence that you made a complaint.

Another avenue to then investigate is mediation. This has two benefits. Firstly, it may resolve the issue for you, and you can remain working for your employer and everyone walks into the sunset smiling. But secondly, mediation can set things up for negotiating a Settlement Agreement to your advantage. Then again, in many ways, everyone walks into the sunset smiling… only you get financial compensation and the opportunity to start anew elsewhere.

Deciding on a Settlement Agreement

Many times, the formal legal route of presenting a Settlement Agreement to your employer becomes the best way to finalise the situation for yourself. It removes the stress and delay of a tribunal and lets you move on. Any Settlement Agreement that’s signed by all parties is legally binding, so it’s important you take advice from a qualified adviser who has specific experience of dealing with them. By taking appropriate advice, you’ll ensure the settlement agreement includes various features that are of benefit to you, like financial compensation and an insistence that you get a reference.

To find out more about whether a Settlement Agreement is your best option to resolve issues of discrimination at work, please do give us a call. We’re always very keen to guide people experiencing discrimination at work towards the right solution for their situation.


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