The “leading businessman”, his injunction, and freedom of speech
LUKE HUTCHINGS >
The humble Settlement Agreement is in the news thanks to a Court of Appeal injunction sought by Sir Philip Green (former retail mogul and alleged boss from Hell).
Settlement Agreements are contracts which are used to conclude disputes between parties, particularly in the employment setting. They are regulated by statute and result in the employee being compensated in return for agreeing to settle or waive claims against the employer. These can include claims for sexual harassment, and bullying.
Settlement Agreements are almost always confidential, and the employee is required to keep the subject matter of the dispute confidential as well.
An independent solicitor advises the employee on the terms of the Agreement before it is signed. Importantly, the employee knows that they must keep matters confidential as a part of the “deal” which results in compensation being paid to them.
This is why I have a problem with those arguing that “freedom of speech” requires that these agreements are outlawed, or their use restricted. As the Court of Appeal ruled, parties need to be free to enter into contracts, both having taken legal advice, which may be confidential, as a way of settling disputes.
Settlement Agreements cannot gag employees from “blowing the whistle” on wrongdoing and employees can complain of criminal activity, for instance, to the Police, or financial impropriety to a regulator, even after signing a Settlement Agreement. However the effect of signing a Settlement Agreement, and receiving your compensation, is that you cannot go to the Press as well.
In my view, the system works well, and leaving aside arguments about what is in the “public interest” (I am not sure that the sexual propriety of any well-known businessman is necessarily in the public interest), I think the right of parties to resolve matters confidentially, where they have both had legal advice, should be appreciated in an age where “trial by media” becomes ever more routine.
One of our employment specialists at Taylor Rose TTKW would be happy to discuss this with you further. Call us on 01733 333 333 for a no-obligation chat.
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