A solicitor, or a qualified legal advisor, is legally required for a settlement agreement.
Settlement agreements are legal documents that formalise the terms of separation between an employer and employee. These agreements are often utilised to mitigate the risk of future claims against the employer. However, the question often arises: are solicitors for settlement agreements necessary?
Legal Requirement for Independent Advice
The short answer is yes, a solicitor is required for a settlement agreement. According to UK law, for a settlement agreement to be legally binding, the employee must have received independent legal advice about the terms and effect of the agreement. This includes its impact on the individual's ability to pursue any claims before an employment tribunal.
The legal advisor can be a solicitor, a certified trade union official, or a certified advice centre worker. They must have a contract of insurance, or professional indemnity insurance, covering the risk of a claim by the employee in respect of loss arising from the advice.
Choosing Your Legal Advisor
While you have the freedom to choose your legal advisor, it is crucial to ensure that they have the required qualifications and expertise in employment law. The advisor should understand the nature of settlement agreements and be able to explain the terms and implications to you.
The role of the legal advisor is not just to explain the agreement, but also to provide advice. They should consider your specific circumstances, and advise on whether you are getting a good deal and whether there are any potential claims you may be waiving.
Do I Need a Local Solicitor?
While it can be helpful to have a solicitor close to your location for face-to-face meetings, it's not a requirement. Thanks to technology, many solicitors can provide advice over the phone or through video calls. This means that you can choose a solicitor based on their expertise, reputation, and cost, rather than their location.
The Importance of Timing
It is essential to involve a solicitor as early as possible in the process. Once the terms of the agreement are decided, and you have signed the settlement agreement, it is usually too late to change the terms. Therefore, seeking legal advice before you agree to anything with your employer is crucial.
Solicitors can provide invaluable advice to ensure you understand the implications of the agreement. While a local solicitor might be convenient, you can choose an advisor based on factors such as expertise and cost, rather than proximity. Engaging a solicitor early in the process is crucial to ensure that your interests are adequately protected.
With over 10 years of experience in employment law matters, David Philip Harris specialises in providing legal advice on settlement agreements to both employees and employers throughout the UK. David’s opinion and advice are frequently sought after as he contributes often to BBC Radio Berkshire and the People Management Magazine. David Is a long-standing member of The Employment Lawyers Association and The Law Society.