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Interpreting contracts in pay disputes

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has decided that Employment Judges should be able to interpret contractual clauses in relation to pay dispute claims.

It has long been the case that Employment Judges have been kept from interpreting contractual clauses in relation to the right to receive employment particulars (i.e. a contract of employment and wage slips) under Part I of the Employment Rights Act (ERA) 1996.  This has largely been on the basis that such interpretation in these cases is best left to the civil courts within the realm of a breach of contract claim.

However, the position in relation to whether Employment Judges should be able to interpret potentially very complex contractual clauses relating to pay provisions relating to claims for protection of wages under Part II of ERA 1996 has been an area of some debate.

Nevertheless, in the case of Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive (t/a Nexus) v Anderson & Others, His Honour Judge Hand QC decided, after reviewing a number of previous cases, that Employment Judges should be able to interpret contractual provisions, provided that such interpretation relates to a claim falling within Part II of the ERA 1996 in relation to protection of wages.

Comment

There possibly isn’t a better way to put it than in the words of His Honour Judge Hand QC from his judgment:

“Employment Judges nowadays deal with complicated matters and I do not think that contractual construction is any more complicated than other matters that they deal with routinely”.

This article is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. Knight Polson Limited trading as QualitySolicitors Knight Polson accepts no responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the contents of the above article, please do not hesitate to contact us on knightpolson@qualitysolicitors.com  or 023 8064 4822.

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