Football Doctor Dismissal and the Value of a Settlement Agreement

17 June 2016

Chelsea Football Club and its former manager Jose Mourinho have had the spotlight on them after the Employment Tribunal case of Dr Eva Carneiro started in London earlier this month. Dr Carneiro was the Chelsea doctor who came under fire for treating one of the Chelsea players who was injured in the opening game of the 2015/16 Premier League season.

She was openly criticised by then manager Jose Mourinho, whose team drew the game against Swansea 2-2, and she was subsequently demoted. He disputed that she needed to give treatment to the injured player as it meant that his team only had 9 players on the pitch for a short time. Any player who receives treatment has to leave the pitch until the referee allows them to come back on. Dr Carneiro left the club and her position after her demotion.

The Employment Tribunal case was due to last 10 days, but a surprising settlement agreement was announced last night. The press has reported that Dr Carneiro turned down an offer of £1.2 million to settle her claim, and there has been speculation in the press about the settlement figure she accepted.

Whilst the amounts being discussed are huge and probably not representative of the majority of us in the course of our work, some of principles of the case around Unfair Dismissal and Sexual Discrimination are absolutely relevant.

We’ll never know what the Employment Tribunal would have decided after hearing all the evidence, but sometimes an employer has to carefully consider the very public disclosures that happen at an Employment Tribunal, with emails, paperwork and statements being made available for the press to report. Perhaps Chelsea thought better than to continue on through what was an extremely high profile case.

Most employers work through the challenges and issues of deciding whether to offer a Settlement Agreement or continue to Tribunal in these circumstances. The damage to their reputation and their business may be too much to continue to Tribunal and therefore a settlement agreement may be a better option.

As in the Dr Carneiro case, employers can add in a clause to keep the details of the settlement agreement confidential. This means that once signed and agreed, the employee or employer can’t disclose any information publically about their settlement agreement.

So what does a settlement agreement contain and why are they so valuable when there are disputes and disagreements at work?

Settlement agreements are very popular in these circumstances as they work for both the employer and the employee. They are also entered into with agreement from both sides, with the contents of the agreement being flexible depending on the circumstances.

There are some necessary parts that have to be included in a settlement agreement so that it is legally binding in English Law (England & Wales).

What Should be Included in a Settlement Agreement

  • It must be in writing.
  • It must clearly state what complaint the agreement relates to. This means that your employer is exempt from any claims relating to the complaints or proceedings named in the settlement agreement.
  • The employee must have had independent legal advice about the settlement agreement. This must include the implications of accepting the agreement and that any future claims would be refused because of the agreement.
  • The legal advisor you see must have current Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII).
  • It must say who the legal advisor is.
  • It must say that the agreement satisfies all of the legal requirements.

In most cases employers in England and Wales will pay for you to get the independent legal advice required in the settlement agreement. In these circumstances you’ll probably just want information about the structure of the agreement and whether it is legally binding.

You should also get detailed legal advice on the merits of any potential claim you have. It could be that your potential claim is very strong and you have a very real prospect of getting more compensation at an Employment Tribunal, rather than accepting what is being offered in your Settlement Agreement.

A specialist Employment Law Solicitor can help you to be clear about any potential claim and, if you choose, they can also handle negotiations with your employer to try to improve the settlement you’ve been offered.

At Co-op Legal Services we know how difficult it is to understand clearly whether your employer has acted inappropriately and exposed themselves to an Employment Tribunal claim. Our Employment Law Solicitors can help you understand exactly what any possible claim could be worth and present this information to your employer to renegotiate your settlement.

One of our Employment Law Solicitors recently got a client an increase of 25% on his Settlement Agreement.

Our Settlement Agreement Solicitor Fees are simple and easy to understand. For legal advice on your settlement agreement terms (which your employer will typically pay) we offer a fixed fee service.

If you want legal advice about the merit of any potential claims and whether you’ve been offered enough in the Settlement Agreement, we also offer fixed fees. You’ll pay these costs.

If, after we’ve given you legal advice on the merit of your claims, you want an Employment Solicitor to negotiate your settlement agreement with your employer, we can help.

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