More than 80 staff were paid off by Southwark Council over four years, costing the local authority more than £2 million.   

Between 2015 and 2018, the council signed 88 settlement agreements, which involve ‘gagging’ or confidentiality orders, according to a Freedom of Information request.  

They are usually agreed when an employee has an issue with their employer or is facing redundancy.   

Under the agreement, which avoids the cost and hassle of going to court, the employee signs on the dotted line in return for a payoff.  

Settlement agreements usually contain a standard set of obligations for both parties to follow, including how the employee’s notice period and outstanding holiday pay will be dealt with and the payment the employee will receive.  

Employers offer settlement agreements for a variety of reasons, including redundacy, an ongoing performance improvement process, a breakdown in trust, allegations of misconduct or the threat of an employment tribunal claim.  

But they are often seen as controversial under the Public Interest Act as whistleblowers should be protected. 

The settlements come with confidentiality clauses as standard, which means issues raised by employees about their workplace may never come to light.  

In 2015, £504,628 was handed over to 24 people, £893,411 was given to 40 employees in 2016, £266,623 was paid to 12 people in 2017 and £350,687 was paid to 12 employees in 2018.  

A spokesperson for Southwark Council said they could not comment on individual cases but highlighted that many of the people that leave the organisation were not involved in settlement agreements. 

She said: “To put the number into context, we’re a large organisation with over 4,000 employees, and we had 507 leavers for varied reasons in 2018/19.”