LRD Booklets January 2020

Case law at work (16th edition)

Introduction

Introduction 


[page 4]

This is the 16th 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, many of which are not contained in other legal guides. It can be used as a discrete resource and as a companion to LRD’s annual employment law guide Law at Work (www.lrdpublications.org.uk/lawatwork).






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 provide enough detail to cover all the circumstances in which it may need to be applied.
Courts and tribunals 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.






Law at Work (www.lrdpublications.org.uk/lawatwork), is a comprehensive guide to all key areas of employment law, and includes many significant cases. However, it is beyond its scope 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.
 The tribunal or court reference is given at the end of each case.


Nearly all the rulings in this booklet are decisions of the higher courts (Employment Appeal Tribunal, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and Court of Justice of the European Union). Rulings on points of law by these courts are binding on the courts below. In general terms, they are not allowed to reach decisions by interpreting the law in a way that contradicts the ruling of a higher court that has gone before. English common law relies on this system of “precedent” so that the parties and their legal advisers (and people outside the court system such as employees and employers) can predict with as much certainty as possible what the law is and act accordingly. 


Rulings by employment tribunals are not binding and for that reason they are rarely reported on, unless they say something unusually noteworthy. A good example in 2019 is the employment tribunal ruling in the case of Conisbee v Crossley Farms Limited and others Norwich Employment Tribunal Case No. ET3335357/2018, that vegetarianism is not currently a “religion or belief” for the purposes of protection under the Equality Act 2010 (see Chapter 6: Discrimination). 


Even though employment tribunal decisions are not binding on other tribunals or higher courts, they are still interesting and useful, providing a window on the way in which decisions are made and the factors taken into account. Since March 2017, new employment tribunal judgments have been publicly available on a searchable database at: www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions.




Transcripts of the cases summarised in this booklet can be downloaded free of cost from the website of the British and Irish Legal Information Institute: www.bailii.org.