Settlement agreements are potentially the best vehicle for securing the most favourable exit from employment.
Settlement agreements, formerly known as compromise agreements, are legally binding voluntary contracts used to end an employment relationship on agreed terms.
In the education sector, teacher settlement agreements are usually proposed in circumstances where working relationships have broken down irretrievably; where teachers are threatened with formal disciplinary or capability procedures; in cases of long-term sickness absence; or where employers are proposing redundancies.
Settlement agreements are meant to make it easier for parties to agree departing terms and are usually presented as the culmination of a number of workplace meetings, discussions or events.
Proposed terms will need to be agreed, such as any termination date, compensation and terms relating to your current role and future career. There will be a process of negotiation, during which both parties make proposals and counter-proposals.
Once signed, settlement agreements are treated as legally binding documents containing the full terms of any deal agreed with your employer.
How can Thompsons Solicitors support you with your teacher settlement agreement?
A settlement agreement can provide certainty for parties who may be in dispute. However, the process of approaching and negotiating settlement agreements for teachers can be tricky. Thompsons Solicitors has a team of experts with a wealth of knowledge of the education sector, who provide support and advice to thousands of teachers and education professionals facing termination of their employment on agreed terms every year.
In addition to standard clauses contained in all settlement agreements, there are particular clauses relevant to teachers that Thompsons will ensure are included to protect you, giving you the best chance of starting afresh unhindered by your previous employment.
Read on to find out more about settlement agreements for teachers and how Thompsons can support you.
Teacher settlement agreements – how much will I get?
In return for signing a teacher settlement agreement and waiving some of your statutory legal rights, you can expect to receive a compensatory lump sum payment which will usually be higher than that which you would receive if you went to court.
The payments should compensate you as much as possible for your future loss of earnings until you find a job. This is how an employment tribunal would calculate the teacher settlement agreement amount you will receive, as well as the majority of your losses if you fought and won a legal claim for unfair dismissal.
Particular clauses in settlement agreements for teachers
Signing a settlement agreement prevent a teacher or education professional from taking an employment claim to a tribunal.
However, certain rights should be exempt from compromise by a teacher settlement agreement, such as accrued pension rights and future personal injury claims. Protection of these rights within the agreement ensure that claims can still be brought in respect of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme or Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) - rights that are vitally important to those working in the education sector.
In the same way people who have worked in education have often worked in historic buildings that may contain asbestos. If it transpires that asbestos exposure has occurred during the course of your employment, you need to have preserved the right to bring a personal injury claim if necessary. Thompsons will ensure that any settlement agreement for a teacher contains that right.
In the education sector, the negotiation of an agreed termination date can be crucially important to allow a natural break in employment and to coincide with the end of the teaching term.
Other clauses to consider in a teacher settlement agreement
Ensuring that the teacher leaves their job with a positive professional reference is a very valuable part of the deal that leads to the settlement agreement being signed by a teacher and education professional. It is imperative that your employer agrees to provide you with a favourable, agreed job reference and that will be attached to the settlement agreement. It is also crucial that the agreement allows for the different type of references which may be required, such as a Pro-forma style reference or a questionnaire-style reference. This is very important but is not always included as a standard term within a teacher settlement agreement.
Thompsons will ensure, via negotiation, that the appropriate reference and clause are included within any settlement agreement. Further, our specialist settlement agreement team will ensure that any references include a safeguarding clause and do not refer to the reason for termination.
Many employers will also be amenable to agreeing to the wording and timing of an announcement to the school community to explain your departure, and any such statement should be referred to within and attached to the agreement reached.
Most settlement agreements for teachers will include a confidentiality clause, commonly called a ‘gagging clause’. Such a clause will place obligations on you not to disclose the terms or subject matter of the settlement agreement. However, properly worded, it won’t prevent you from disclosing this information to your immediate family, your professional advisors or as required by law, such as for tax purposes to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Inclusion of such clause can benefit both parties, by preventing unwanted intrusion into an employee’s private life and preventing reputational damage.
If what is termed a ‘non-derogatory clause’ is included, this should be made reciprocal and should not solely be in favour of the employer. Inclusion of such a clause ensures that no derogatory or disparaging comments can be made by either side about the other once employment has ended, to ensure each other’s reputations are protected and enabling both parties to move forward.
Any clause in a teacher settlement agreement which attempts to stop a worker blowing the whistle - otherwise known as making a protected disclosure - would be void and unenforceable by a court. Such a clause would prevent a teacher or educational professional from making a protected disclosure. Thompsons always make sure that no such clause is included.
Teachers and educational professionals quite often take their own property and materials onto the employer’s premises to help them in their teaching and it is important that any ‘return of property clause’ included within a settlement agreement is mutual.
If any teaching loans have been taken out or any course fees paid for by the employer on the provision that employment with the employer will continue for a period of time, Thompsons can negotiate that within the teacher settlement agreement a clause is included to ensure repayment is void and unrecoverable.
What happens if you have received a teacher settlement agreement?
If your employer, head teacher or principal suggests a settlement agreement to you, or if you feel that a settlement agreement would be the best vehicle for terminating your employment, you should seek immediate advice from your trade union. They will then refer you to Thompsons for our expert advice and assistance. At Thompsons Solicitors, we have a dedicated team of solicitors who support union members through the process of settlement agreements.
If you are not a member of a trade union, we can still help but on different terms.
Get in touch
To find out more about the support we provide, visit our settlement agreements page. Alternatively, you can contact us on 0800 0 224 224 for more information.