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Case Study: Grievance resulted in Settlement Agreement Compensation being increased by £30,000 and legal fees by £750 plus vat

Employment Law

How Fiona Martin, specialist Employment Law solicitor based in our Brighton office, succeeded in securing an enhanced settlement for an employee’s sex discrimination claims.

The situation

Mary was employed as a Director dealing with recruitment at a University for almost two years. From early on in her role, it was clear Mary was being treated less favourably by her senior management team when compared with two male directors.

Mary had contacted her employer’s HR Managers on a number of occasions about this less favourable treatment and was advised to submit a grievance. But when Mary raised some of the issues with her line manager she was told she could not submit a complaint and that she was overreacting and being emotional.

Due to the discriminatory behaviour, Mary was signed off sick with stress for four weeks. When she returned to work, Mary’s line manager, David, complained about the quality of work prior to her going on sick leave. When she asked for examples he could not provide any.

The final straw was when another Director accused her of not doing her job properly. Mary felt she had no other choice than to resign. Mary submitted her resignation but within 30 minutes was asked by the HR Director to withdraw this. She also apologised on behalf of the university.

Despite being told the HR Director would look restructuring the department and address the unfair and bullying treatment, nothing changed and Mary’s pay was later reduced to 50% due to her still being on sick leave three months later. Mary felt  she could no longer return to work and asked if the University would offer her a Settlement Agreement so she could leave.

When Mary was sent the draft agreement she was shocked at the low amount she was being offered. Not all of her contractual six months’ notice was included as they counted the time from when she had resigned as her having served notice even though she had retracted this on their advice. It was therefore not legally compliant with the Finance Act as it constituted tax avoidance.

Also, there was no compensation for the period her salary had been reduced to 50% when Mary stayed on sick leave for more than three months waiting for her employer to resolve matters.

Mary contacted Martin Searle Solicitors as she needed to have a solicitor sign off her Agreement, for it to be legally binding.

What Martin Searle Solicitors did

Fiona Martin advised Mary that she should raise a formal grievance regarding her treatment and submit a Subject Access Request

After submitting her grievance, the University contacted Fiona at Martin Searle Solicitors to discuss their Settlement Agreement offer.

Fiona asked for Mary’s salary to be restored to the sum she should have been paid while she was on sick leave. This was an additional £3,000. She also asked for six months’ notice to paid in lieu (subject to tax and NI) with a later termination date and a compensatory sum of three months net salary (tax free) as Mary believed she was likely to be out of work for nine months.

The result

The University offered Mary £20,696.98 extra in lieu of notice of termination and £10,828.39 extra termination payment.

Fiona also persuaded the university to increase their financial contribution towards legal fees from £350 plus vat to £1000 plus vat. Mary was extremely pleased with this result.

For expert advice on Settlement Agreements or sex discrimination in the workplace, contact our specialist Employment Law team today on 01273 609911, or email

Martin Searle Solicitors, 9 Marlborough Place, Brighton, BN1 1UB
T: 01273 609 991

Martin Searle Solicitors is the trading name of ms solicitors ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and is registered in England under company number 05067303.

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