LRD Booklets January 2022

Case law at work (18th edition)

Introduction

Introduction

[pages 3-4]

This is the 18th 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 handbook 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 is a comprehensive guide to all key areas of employment law and includes many significant cases. Case Law at Work provides further examples of decided cases which further illustrate how the law is applied in practice.

While Law at Work and Case Law at Work sometimes includes decisions of employment tribunals for illustrative purposes (sometimes referred to as “first tier” decisions, because this is where the claims are initiated), the vast majority are from the higher courts (Employment Appeal Tribunal, Court of Session in Scotland, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ)) because these must be followed by tribunals and any courts below them. This is known as “precedent” and means, in general terms, that tribunals and lower courts should not interpret the law in a way that contradicts a previous ruling of a higher court. 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 a result of Brexit, from 1 January 2021 (subject to the terms of any trade deal), future rulings of the ECJ 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.

While decisions made by one employment tribunal need not be followed by another, they may be “persuasive” and can still be interesting and useful, since they provides examples of the way in which decisions are made and the factors that tribunals take into account. Since March 2017, new employment tribunal decisions have been publicly available on a searchable database at: www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions.

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

All legislation can be found on the government website www.legislation.gov.uk.