LRD Booklets January 2021

Case law at work (17th edition)

Introduction

Introduction

[pages 5-6]

This is the 17th 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 (https://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 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 (ECJ)). English common law relies on the system of “precedent”. This means, in general terms, that they are not allowed to reach decisions by interpreting the law in a way that contradicts a ruling of a higher court that has gone before. The purpose of the precedent system is to enable parties and their legal advisers (and people outside the court system such as employees and employers) to predict with as much certainty as possible what the law is and act accordingly.

As this booklet goes to press, the Brexit transition period is to come to an end on 31 December 2020. From 1 January 2021 (subject to the terms of any trade deal), future rulings of the ECJ will no longer bind UK courts, although UK courts can continue to “have regard” to those decisions. As regards existing ECJ rulings, from 1 January 2021, both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal will be free to decide not to follow these rulings, although they will continue to bind employment tribunals (ETs) until they are overturned.

Rulings by ETs are not binding, but nevertheless, they can still be interesting and useful, since they provide a window on the way in which decisions are made and the factors that ETs take into account. Since March 2017, new ET judgments have been publicly available on a searchable database at: www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions. This year’s Case Law includes ET rulings on In-vitro fertilisation, gender reassignment discrimination at Jaguar Land Rover and race and age harassment at the DWP (Chapter 5), interim relief and automatically unfair dismissal for union-related dismissal (Chapter 4) and the award of costs (Chapter 1).

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.