January 31, 2024

The unknown unknowns: settling future employment claims in the UK


"…there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know."

The well-known interview comment above was made by former US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. While he was referring to matters of national security more than 20 years ago, the question has often arisen in the context of settlement agreements entered into with departing UK employees – to what extent can an employer settle future claims that are unknown?

A recent decision from the Scottish Court of Session makes clear that employers can settle future claims which are unknown at the time of entering into a settlement agreement, even if the basis for the claims has not yet arisen (Bathgate v Technip Singapore Pte Limited).

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