Contracts of employment

No separate contractual claim for manner of dismissal

Overturning the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court has held (by a majority) that an employee cannot bring a breach of contract claim for losses flowing from the manner of dismissal even where the dismissal is in breach of an express contractual disciplinary procedure. The statutory unfair dismissal regime is intended to cover everything to do with the dismissal process – any free-standing claim can only arise out of a genuinely free-standing issue.
Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
 

Gross misconduct and failure to obey management instructions

A persistent and deliberate refusal to comply with a reasonable management instruction, after warnings were given, was gross misconduct justifying summary dismissal – no matter how sincerely the principle behind that refusal may have been held.
Petrofac Offshore Management Ltd v Wilson
 

Varying terms and conditions: dismissal and rehiring on different terms wasn’t unfair

An employer didn’t act unfairly when, after failing to negotiate changes to terms and conditions (which included an offer to ‘buy out’ the bonus scheme), it terminated employee contracts and offered to re-employ the staff on new terms which didn’t include the buy-out payment. The employer had acted in the reasonable and honest belief that this approach would achieve the legitimate and reasonable aim of cutting costs.
Slade v TNT Ltd
 

Employment status: if it looks like an employee, it probably is

The Supreme Court has upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision that car valets whose contracts said they were self employed, were actually employees. In determining contractor/employee status, express terms in a written contract, such as the right to send a replacement worker, are not necessarily conclusive if they are inconsistent with the way the relationship is actually intended to work in practice. Indeed, express contractual terms may be disregarded where they don’t reflect the parties’ actual agreement – an intention to deceive a third party isn’t required.
Autoclenz Ltd v Belcher
 

Ex-gratia payment not set off against notice pay

Making an ex-gratia payment in excess of the employee’s contractual notice period did not extinguish an employer’s liability to pay the employee her notice pay. Loose wording of the employee’s redundancy letter meant that the employee’s claim for damages for dismissal without notice succeeded.
Publicis Consultants UK Ltd v O’Farrell
 

Implied terms: contractually enhanced redundancy pay

Many years of following a standard, accepted and unchallenged practice meant that it was an implied term of a collective agreement (via custom and practice) that an enhanced redundancy payment would only be made if a compromise agreement was signed by the employee.
Garratt v Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd
 


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