LRD Booklets January 2014

Case law at work - 10th edition

Introduction

Introduction

This is the 10th edition of Case Law at Work, the LRD’s key source of information on recent employment law cases. It contains clear summaries and updates of important cases decided by the appeal courts, many of which are not contained in other legal guides. It can be used as a discreet resource and as a companion to LRD’s annual employment law guide Law at Work.

There is a huge amount of employment legislation governing the workplace, from the right to be paid a minimum wage to laws protecting workers from suffering discrimination. While this legislation sets out the basic position it cannot give enough detail to cover all the circumstances in which it may need to be applied.

Courts are therefore called upon to decide how legislation should be interpreted. Their decisions provide a valuable insight into how unfairness at work can most appropriately be challenged and how, in practice, judges find a balance between competing claims.

The LRD’s annual employment law guide, Law at Work, is a comprehensive guide to all key areas of employment law and includes many significant cases. However, it is beyond the scope of Law at Work to provide further details of the cases or to include more than the key decisions. These further details are provided in Case Law at Work.

It is important for union representatives to know how employment legislation has been interpreted by the courts and how the law has been changed by recent judgments. Case Law at Work gives details of recent cases that have been decided by the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), the Court of Appeal (CA), the Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The system of legal precedent means that lower courts are bound by the decisions of higher courts. Specifically, employment tribunals must follow decisions that have been made by the EAT, which must follow those of the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court is the highest domestic court, so the principles decided here will apply to all courts and tribunals beneath it.

In Northern Ireland, which at the lower levels has a slightly different tribunal system to the rest of the UK, employment cases are heard by industrial tribunals, which are bound by decisions of the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal. There is no EAT in Northern Ireland but decisions of the EAT in Great Britain will be strongly persuasive in the Northern Ireland tribunal system.

The ECJ deals with the interpretation of European law — all tribunals and courts can refer a case to the ECJ where an issue is unclear.

Decisions made by employment tribunals are not binding on other tribunals. Even so, some particularly significant tribunal decisions have been included in this year’s booklet. While they are not binding, they are persuasive, and knowing about these cases, for example in relation to the calculation of holiday pay, will help reps in their negotiations with employers.

The tribunal or court reference is given at the end of each case. Decisions are published on the web:

EAT cases at: www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT;

Court of Appeal at: www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ;

Supreme Court at: www.supremecourt.gov.uk/decided-cases (with decisions of the House of Lords, as the Supreme Court was formerly known, at: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldjudgmt.htm);

ECJ at: http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/jcms/j_6; and

Central Arbitration Committee at: www.cac.gov.uk