How Long Should an Employee be Given to Get Legal Advice on a Settlement Agreement?

If your employer has offered you a settlement agreement, you may have been told that they require a response within a short amount of time, for example by the end of the week. This will mean that you’ll need to get legal advice as soon as possible.

Is this fair? Can an employer insist on such a tight timescale for responding to the offer, particularly since you’ll want to speak to a solicitor before you make a decision?

What does the law say?

Although the law requires an employee to obtain legal advice on a settlement agreement, there’s not stipulation as to how long they should be given to do that.

There’s also no legal requirement for an offer to be kept open for a minimum length of time. It is only an offer and it is your decision whether to accept or refuse it.

The employer can withdraw the offer at any time before it has been signed by both parties. In reality, this rarely happens because the employer is usually keen to finalise matters sooner rather than later.

If you need extra time in order to get legal advice on a settlement agreement, you may want to ask your employer for an extension.

The ACAS Code of Practice on Settlement Agreements

The ACAS Code of Practice recommends a minimum period of 10 days for considering an offer.

This is not a legally binding requirement but it is something that an employment tribunal would take into account in determining whether an employer has acted reasonably.

If your employer follows this Code, the 10 day period should be enough time to obtain legal advice.

Seek legal advice straight away

If your employer insists on an early response to their offer, you should immediately contact a solicitor who is able to provide you with the help you need to reach a decision.

Many solicitors are able to give initial legal advice on a settlement agreement quickly and easily by telephone and email, usually without charge.