‘Government must act to stop golden handshakes’

- Advertisement -

A response to a States written question from Deputy Mike Higgins showed that, since 2017, 85 public sector workers had received payouts totalling £3.38 million, courtesy of ‘compromise agreements’ containing non-disclosure clauses.

The most high-profile of these ‘golden handshakes’ was the £500,000 paid to former chief executive Charlie Parker when he left office at the start of the year. The amount he received was double his annual salary.

Mr Parker, who became head of the civil service in 2018, stepped down after being heavily criticised for a taking a second job with a UK property company.

Deputy Inna Gardiner, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, which monitors government spending, said that the money awarded in golden handshakes should be put to better use for the Island.

She said: ‘This is a significant part of the total wage bill for the States of Jersey. We are struggling to find £50,000 for a youth worker to support children in need.

‘That £3.4 million could help to reduce hospital waiting times, improve education or care of the elderly. In an age of austerity and budget reductions, this looks like a very obvious place to make substantial savings without any reduction of service provision.

‘I want to hear what substantive actions are being taken to address this completely unnecessary and substantial cost in our budget and what has been done to ensure that lessons have been learned and will be applied in the future. In order to understand what has been learned, I would expect the government to publish some form of lessons-learned review, at the very least internally and in private to Scrutiny.’

Under a compromise agreement, an employee reaches an agreement concerning their dismissal to prevent legal action being taken against the employer. This often involves a cash payment being made.

Non-disclosure clauses prevent workers from releasing sensitive or confidential information about their former employer.

Other substantial payouts during the past five years have included £178,000 to ex-health chief Julie Garbutt in 2018, £108,000 to education head Justin Donovan in the same year and £130,000 to Mr Parker’s predecessor, John Richardson, in 2017.

Bill Ogley, another former chief executive, received a payout of £546,337.50 in 2012. Then-Chief Minister Ian Gorst pledged to crack down on the practice of golden handshakes in 2013.

Deputy Gardiner said that payouts being made under compromise agreements suggested that errors may have been made on the part of the government or that contracts needed to be set out more carefully.

She said: ‘A golden handshake is usually some kind of negotiated settlement. This implies that further negotiations regarding financial compensation were possible at the time of end of employment. We must ask ourselves why.

‘Either the original contract was open to negotiation or actions that breached that contract were made by someone. The last three chief executives have left with compromise agreements, [a situation which] led to three Comptroller and Auditor General reports on the matter, all containing recommendations, some of which are still outstanding.

‘I have no desire to blame anyone or to find a scapegoat but we desperately need to explore why we are paying out so much in golden handshakes so we can take action to reduce, if not completely stop, these expensive contract-termination circumstances reoccurring.’

Deputy Kirsten Morel added that the number of compromise agreements was ‘a concerning trend’.

He said: ‘I appreciate that some of these will have been necessary and due to no fault of the government but I do know that some are because the government has not acted appropriately as an employer.

‘It is very important that the government reviews each agreement and the circumstances that have led to them in order to learn lessons and improve its processes with a view to reducing its dependency on them.’

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Recent Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.