If you have been offered a settlement agreement by your employer, there is often a temptation to sign the agreement quickly to bring an unwelcome situation to an end and receive payment.
It is important to remember a settlement agreement is a legally binding document and you need to take legal advice on the detailed terms for the settlement agreement to be valid.
However, the standard terms in a settlement agreement may not be in the best interests of the employee and these will often need to be adjusted before they should sign.
There is a risk that employees are signing up to terms which may cause a problem in the future but are not obvious at the time.
We represented an oil and gas worker based in Houston who was working for an Aberdeen company. His proposed settlement agreement restricted him from speaking to existing customers for 12 months or working for a similar company in the US, Brazil or UK - essentially rendering him unable to work for 12 months.
We negotiated the terms of the settlement agreement so he was able to seek employment in similar companies based in the US or Brazil, ensuring his career was not hindered.
This is why experience matters and the solicitor you choose to represent you should be well versed in settlement agreements. The clauses are complex and the payments carry important tax implications including recent changes to the law which can lead to penalty payments.
It is important that all of the payments that you are entitled to when your employment comes to an end are included within the agreement. If they are not, then your right to recover these payments will be gone once the agreement is completed.
This could mean missing out on valuable payments such as notice pay, a bonus or payments for share entitlements.
If your employer proposes a settlement agreement then you are entitled to a reasonable time to decide if you wish to accept.
However, an agreement can be withdrawn at any time so acting quickly is important.
It is also important to remember that you do not need to accept a settlement agreement. It may be possible to consider pursuing an Employment Tribunal claim instead if grounds for this exist.
If you spend any time standing at the side of a road it will not take long to tally a hefty number of people driving past using their phone. The top deck of a double-decker gives a good aerial view and can also reveal a startling trend of drivers passing whilst using their phone.
A survey by Transport Scotland and Department of Transport revealed Scottish drivers are significantly more likely to use their mobile phones whilst driving compared to anywhere else in the UK – and this doubles for younger drivers aged 17 to 24 years old.
They found more drivers using their mobile phones at traffic lights compared to on the move. However, by law even holding a mobile phone at any point while driving is an offence, including while the car is stationary at traffic lights or sitting in queuing traffic.
The police report that a driver is four times more likely to crash if using a mobile, and reaction speeds are halved.
However, the sad reality is that drivers continue to gamble with the safety of themselves and others. The growing trend of being glued to our phones at every waking moment has seemingly spread to include the time spent driving.
Perhaps people think they will not get caught, or perhaps they think that even if they do the penalty is light enough that they can afford to take the risk.
Although the stricter penalties that came in force in March 2017 go some way to addressing such a mentality, if indeed that is the problem, it is worth remembering that it might not just be the fine, the points, the re-sit of the test and any increased insurance premiums that you need to worry about.
There could also be adverse consequences for your job, your family life and your own freedom if you drive whilst using your phone.
Danny Warby was driving a 13.6 tonne vehicle when he crashed into a car being driven by off-duty police officer Det Con Sharon Garrett. At the time, Mr Warby was reading a text message. Mrs Garrett died at the scene.
Mr Warby was convicted of dangerous driving, banned from driving for ten years and was jailed for six years.
Cyclist Lee Martin suffered fatal injuries when he was struck by a van being driven by Christopher Gard.
Mr Gard had at least six prior convictions for driving whilst using a mobile phone. He was jailed for nine years.
Tomasz Kroker was driving a lorry when scrolling through music on his phone. Although driving at 50mph, he had barely looked at the road for almost a kilometre.
He crashed into the back of stationary traffic, instantly killing Tracy Houghton and her sons, Ethan, 13 and Joshua 11, along with her partner’s daughter, Aimee Goldsmith, 11. Mr Kroker was sentenced to ten years in prison.
The message cannot be more clear – aside from driving whilst using your phone being illegal, the consequences can be fatal and a moment of inattention could literally destroy your life and others.
Be safe, and put your mobile phone away.
Our Kirkcaldy office were delighted to present a cheque for over £7,000 to support Frontline Fife, a homeless charity, who campaign to prevent rough sleeping and help those affected by it.
These funds were raised through year-long fundraising activities such as bake sales and pub quiz nights attended by members of the public.
This is double the amount raised the previous year by the office.
He said: “The work Frontline Fife does is really incredible so it makes us proud to be able to contribute to their efforts for the second year.
“I’d also like to thank those who have contributed to our fundraising efforts by attending our events - without your support we wouldn’t have smashed our total raised last year.
“This is the second year in a row we’ve supported Frontline Fife and we’re immensely proud to contribute to the lives they literally help improve for hundreds across the Kingdom."
Ruth Young from Frontline Fife said: "We were delighted to be chosen as Digby Brown Kirkcaldy's chosen charity for a second year.
"Their support and commitment to raising funds for our organisation has been greatly appreciated and we were overwhelmed with their cheque presentation this week.
"Without the support of the community and local businesses, we wouldn't be able to provide the additional assistance to people threatened with, or facing homelessness in Fife."