Employment Law Bulletin May 2016


It’s been a busy few weeks for employment law in the news: from striking junior doctors to high-heel wearing (or not) receptionists and that’s before we even get to the employment law implications of a potential exit from the EU. Before you spring for the delete key, don’t worry, this bulletin is a Brexit-free-zone. I can’t guarantee that it will be next month, though…

Entirely coincidentally, however, this month’s round-up does contain two cases involving human rights:

Employee handbooks – what is contractual and what isn’t?

An employee handbook typically sets out the procedures that an employer has in place for dealing with issues such as misconduct, poor performance and absence. Some issues dealt with in the handbook will be part of the employee’s terms and conditions of employment and others will not. The distinction is important because any change to contractual terms will generally need to be agreed with the employee, whereas non-contractual procedures can be changed whenever the employer feels it is appropriate.

In Department for Transport v Sparks, the handbook provided that absence management policies would not be instigated in respect of short-term absences until the ‘trigger point’ of 21 days’ absence was reached. The employer sought to amend this threshold but was challenged in the High Court by the employees’ trade union. The High Court granted an injunction preventing the change from taking place and this has now been upheld by the Court of Appeal.