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Understanding the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) and settlements

About understanding the LRA and settlements

If you've got a problem at work that you can't sort out, you may be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal.

When you put in a claim to an employment tribunal, a Conciliation Officer from the Labour Relations Agency (or LRA) will contact you to see if you want their help to try and settle your claim.

This page tells you about the LRA and what they can do to help you sort things out with your employer.

There may be other ways of sorting out your problem than making a claim to an employment tribunal.

To find out more about other ways of sorting out your problem at work, see Sorting out problems at work.

To find out more about making a claim to an employment tribunal, see Employment tribunals.

Who are the LRA and what do they do?

LRA stands for the Labour Relations Agency. The LRA was established in 1976 as a non-governmental public body with responsibility for promoting the improvement of employment relations in Northern Ireland. When you make a claim to an employment tribunal, the LRA will contact you to see if you want to use the LRA to help try and settle your claim. Settling your claim means coming to an agreement with your employer to stop the case before the tribunal hearing. A settlement usually involves your employer agreeing to pay you some money and you agreeing not to continue with the case.

After they've spoken to you, the LRA will contact your employer to see if they're prepared to negotiate through the LRA to try and reach a settlement. Neither you nor your employer have to use the LRA but you'll usually find their services helpful, particularly if you don't have a representative.

If you have a representative, the LRA will speak to them. Your representative should keep you informed of how any negotiations are going. Some representatives may choose not to use the LRA and negotiate directly with your employer instead.

If you agree a settlement through the LRA it is binding on both you and your employer. This means that when you've signed the agreement, you have to stick to it. So make sure you don't agree to any terms of settlement unless you’re sure you want to accept them. You can't change your mind and carry on with your case once you have told the LRA that you agree to the settlement.

If you don't have a representative, you should try to get advice on the terms of the settlement before you agree to it.

Contact details for the LRA

You can get advice by calling their helpline or looking on their website.

Telephone: 028 9032 1442 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm)

Website: www.lra.org.uk  

To find details of other organisations that might be able to help you, see What help can I get with a problem at work.

Can the LRA represent me?

The LRA does not represent people in employment cases. Their job is to try and help you and your employer settle your case.

This doesn't mean that they will try to get the best deal for you, but one that both you and your employer will accept. So if you can't reach an agreement that both you and your employer are happy with, the LRA will stop their involvement, and you can decide whether to go on with your case to the employment tribunal.

What's a settlement agreement?

A settlement agreement is a settlement that is agreed directly between you and your employer, not through the LRA. Some employers prefer not to go through the LRA, or may have other reasons that they prefer to use a settlement agreement.

The effect of signing a settlement agreement is similar to signing an agreement through the LRA. The agreement usually says that you agree not to take your case to the employment tribunal, and your employer agrees to pay you some money. There might be other conditions in the agreement, for example about confidentiality.

The law says that for the settlement agreement to be legally binding, you have to get independent legal advice. You might be able to get advice from your adviser or representative, but make sure they are properly qualified. If you don't have an adviser or representative, or they can't give you this advice, you'll need to find a solicitor. Many employers will pay for you to see a solicitor of your choice.

To find details of organisations that might be able to give you advice or help you find a solicitor, see What help can I get with a problem at work.

If you agree a settlement agreement with your employer, you or your adviser or representative will need to withdraw your case from the employment tribunal. You can do this by writing to the tribunal.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a way of resolving a dispute with your employer without the need to go to a full hearing. It is offered by the Labour Relations Agency, is confidential and held in private. A trained Labour Relations Agency mediator acts as the impartial mediator.

Only some cases are suitable for mediation and both you and your employer must agree to go to it.

If you and your employer can't solve your problem through mediation, your case can go on to a full tribunal hearing. Nothing that was said or done in mediation can be referred to in a full tribunal hearing.

If mediation fails, the mediator who conducted your case won't be involved in any future tribunal hearings.

What could I get from my employment tribunal case?

There are lots of possible outcomes from taking your case to an employment tribunal. For example, you might get compensation, an agreed reference from your employer or money back your employer owes you. There are lots of different things to think about when you're working out what you want from your case.

In terms of money, it's often hard to say exactly how much you might get from your case. An adviser or representative should be able to give you an idea of the range of compensation you might get if you win your case in the tribunal. They might do this by putting together a schedule of loss.

If you don't have an adviser or representative, you might be able to get help with to work out how much your case is worth.

For details of organisations which might be able to help you, see What help can I get with a problem at work.

Try not to be influenced by very high figures for compensation you sometimes see in the press. These cases are very much the exception rather than the rule, and the situation might be very different to your claim. Try to keep your expectations realistic.

What's a schedule of loss?

A schedule of loss is a document that helps you work out how much compensation you might get from the tribunal if you win your case. You can also use it if you're negotiating to settle your case with your employer before the tribunal hearing.

The schedule of loss is made up of different parts. It includes sections for different things you may be claiming, for example unpaid wages, compensation for unfair dismissal or injury to feelings.

For example, if your case includes claiming back money taken from your wages, or holiday or notice pay your employer owes you, you should put the actual amount of money you're owed in the schedule of loss.

If your case is about unfair dismissal or discrimination you may also want to claim for compensation. This is made up of two parts, called the basic award and the compensatory award. If your case is about discrimination you may also be able to get compensation for injury to feelings.

To find out more about how much you can claim for compensation if you've been dismissed, see Dismissal.

If you have an adviser or representative, they should be able to help you to put together a schedule of loss.

You might be able to get advice on how the amounts for each part of the schedule of loss are worked out.

For details of organisations that might be able to help, see What help can I get with a problem at work.

Should I settle outside the employment tribunal?

There are lots of reasons why you might want to settle your case outside the employment tribunal. By settling, you avoid the stress and worry of having to go to the hearing. You may also be able to agree a settlement that is better than what you might get from the tribunal. For example, you may be able to agree a reference as part of the settlement that could have more value to you in the long run than any money. If you're unsure about the strength of your case, you may prefer the certainty of getting something, rather than risk losing in the tribunal. By getting your employer to pay something, it is a form of victory and recognition that they may have treated you badly.

How do I know my employer will keep to the terms of the settlement?

Most employers will keep to the terms of the settlement and pay up. A few, though, may delay paying you or even refuse to pay up. Usually, you'll have to take further action in the courts to get your employer to pay up. In a few situations, you may be able to carry on with your tribunal claim, or start a new claim to get your employer to pay up.

If your employer is refusing to keep to the terms of your settlement, you should try to get advice from your adviser or representative. If you don't have an adviser or representative, there may be an organisation which can help you.

For details of organisations that might be able to help, see What help can I get with a problem at work.

Next steps

For the next steps in making a claim to an employment tribunal, see Preparing an employment tribunal case.

More about problems at work

For more information about how to sort out problems at work, see Sorting out problems at work.

Further help

For information on organisations which can help with employment problems, see What help can I get with a problem at work.

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