As an employment lawyer, I often get asked to advise senior employees looking to leave their current employer. This can be for many reasons – for example, because they have been treated poorly over a period of time or they have experienced stress or other ill health issues due to long hours and work pressure.
So what are the key things you should consider if you are having a difficult time at work?
- Get some legal advice early on. This will help you understand the potential employment law claims you may have and the strength of your position. Some people come to us too late, having resigned, and this can make their negotiating position very difficult. In addition, employment law claims have strict time limits (typically, 3 months from a particular incident happening or the ending of employment). Even if you have no intention of bringing a claim, it will be important to understand what to do now to be one step ahead of the employer.
- Consider what compensation you will seek – and look at other (non-financial) aspects of a deal. One of my clients said recently that she wanted to make her employer (a large Bank) pay “for the three years of hell” they had caused her. Compensation is important – and taking advice early on will help you understand what it is realistic to ask for. However, there are other elements of an exit package that may be equally valuable to you and allow you to move on more quickly. This can include a positive reference, negotiating a release from post-termination restrictions (e.g. a non-compete) and getting access to outplacement, or career transition, assistance.
- Think about what is important to you. I recall one client (now a friend) who said that she could not face going into work and felt physically sick at the prospect. Talking through the situation helped her see that she could not continue like this: she had to resign. She was not interested in seeking compensation from her employer and found it liberating to take control of the situation and resign immediately on her own terms.
- Shut out some of the noise. It is absolutely right for you to take soundings from friends, family and (sometimes, colleagues) to make a decision about your employment. Often they will recognise the signs of stress in you that you have been accustomed to and take as being the norm. However, sometimes those close to you feel understandably aggrieved at your situation and want you to take things forward to a court of employment tribunal. This may not be the right decision for you – either financially or emotionally. Trust yourself. You will know whether this is the right decision for you.
- Get some help to review the terms of any settlement agreement. If your employer agrees to pay you some compensation or gives you a deal to leave, you will be asked to sign a settlement agreement. It is a condition of signing the agreement that you get a lawyer to look through the agreement and advise you on its terms and effect. It is often possible to agree some additional terms – such as an announcement to the business – that positions your departure in the best possible light.
Do get in touch if you are having a difficult time at work and would like a confidential discussion. I am happy to have an initial conversation free of charge, where I can outline how I can help and what the likely costs will be of helping you going forward.
Jane Wheeler, Partner