NSW Employment Contract - Sign Deed of Release in Front of Lawyer?

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25 May 2016
Hi guys,

I have recently willfully terminated my employment with an employer and issued a formal request to be backpaid money owed to me, as my former boss was underpaying his staff (using sham a employment contract instead of paying legal awards). He has agreed to pay me the money owed and his lawyers have sent me a deed of release to sign as a condition of that payment. It contains a non-disparagement clause and a deed to remain confidential the existence of the deed and its terms.

Whilst I would have no need to pursue any further legal action against him myself and don't mind signing a deed there, I'm worried these clauses would prohibit me from encouraging my former work mates to take similar actions themselves, as they would be legally entitled to do.

I've also read here Deed of release | Workplace Info that "a deed is unlikely to have effect if its purpose is to deny statutory entitlements. For example, if an employee’s employment entitlements are set by statute or an award, it will be unnecessary for the employee to enter into a deed to access those entitlements", but it sounds like a deed of release in this circumstance is just to avoid the legal costs of that, rather than avoid paying me my entitlements.

Without seeing the whole deed, what are your initial thoughts? Does it seem like a gag order to keep him from having to pay all the other guys he's ripped off? If that was the case, would that fact make the deed invalid if he tried to come after me for spreading the word? What if I spread the word before signing/returning the agreement? Will that void the contract?

Also, I need to sign in the presence of a witness but the confidentiality agreement states that, without prior written consent, I can only make the deed known to legal advisors. Should I see a lawyer and ask them to sign as a witness or should I just email my boss/his lawyers asking for permission for a friend to sign? If the latter, since that friend would be excused from the confidentiality agreement but not bound by its terms, could they blow the whistle without getting me in trouble?

Thanks if anyone can help.


LawConnect (LawTap) Verified
27 May 2014
By signing the deed you may need to fight it out in court if the ex-employer has a good legal team and wants to go after you for breaking the conditions of the deed.

You are correct in that statutory laws always override private agreements but do you really want to fight to prove this?

The other approach is to not saying anything to others about your agreement/deed/terms, however what about advising them of their rights without any reference to your situation? Is this covered in the deed?

BTW, if you intend to sign make sure there is a clause in the deed protecting/releasing you from any future legal action arising out of your employment. The release should go both ways :)
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