Clifford v IBM United Kingdom Limited

Readers of our previous bulletins may remember a previous case ‘Bathgate v Technip Singapore Limited (Court of Session)’ which dealt with settlement agreements.  Up until this case there had been something of a debate about whether settlement agreements could validly compromise future claims even if such claims were unknown by the employee at the time the agreement was concluded.  In Clifford the Employment Appeal Tribunal followed the principle established in Bathgate.  

In the case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that the Tribunal was correct to strike out a disability discrimination claim on the basis it was precluded by a settlement agreement a number of years previously.  In this case the relationship between the parties here had continued (whereas in Bathgate the employment relationship had come to an end) however, the Employment Appeal Tribunal decided there was nothing in the wording which meant that there should be any distinction.  


The case is good news for employers and provides more certainty in this area.  It confirms that it does not matter that claims might be unknown by the employee at the time the agreement was concluded.  You can still validly compromise such claims as long as the wording is clear in a settlement agreement.  This case is a reminder of the importance of such wording.