Settlement Agreements – Bar on Bringing Further Claims*
This issue was addressed again by the WRC in case ADJ-00029754 being the case of Gabriel McCabe and AB Group Packaging Ireland Limited. In this case the Adjudication Officer referred in their Decision to the case of Hurley –v- The Royal Yacht Club 1997 ELR225 where Buckley J set out the principles of a Settlement Agreement stating;
“I am satisfied that the applicant was entitled to be advised of his entitlements under the Employment Protection Legislation and that any agreement or compromise should have listed the various Acts which were applicable or at least made it clear that they had been taken into account by the employee. I am also satisfied that the applicant should have been advised in writing that he should take appropriate advice as to his rights, which presumably in this case, would have been legal advice. In the absence of such advice I find the agreement to be void”.
The Adjudication Officer in applying these principles was satisfied that the agreement specifically precluded the complainant from commencing any further complaints against the respondent under a wide ambit of Acts including the Payment of Wages Act. Secondly, the Adjudication Officer was satisfied the complainants obtained legal advice from a Solicitor.
The Adjudication Officer found that as the Severance Agreement was signed by the parties it compromised any claims and that the Adjudication Officer did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.
This case is important for restating the requirement for employers to have a valid Settlement Agreement that it is properly drawn up, clearly sets out the Acts or a right which the employee cannot bring a further claim under and is one where the employee has been given the opportunity to obtain legal advice. In this particular case above the employer had made a contribution towards the cost of the employee getting legal advice. It is always as well in these cases for an employer to actually insist upon getting a document witnessed by a Solicitor. In practice it will mean that the employer will provide that a sum of money will be paid to the Solicitor together with VAT on receipt of an invoice addressed to the relevant employee but marked payable by the company.
*Before acting or refraining from acting on anything in this guide, legal advice should be sought from a solicitor.
*In contentious cases a solicitor may not charge fees or expenses as a proportion or percentage of any award or settlement.