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Contractual jurisdiction

In the case of Hussain v Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust [2011] EWHC 1670 (QB Andrew Smith J said, br. There is no single test as to whether an employer and employee intended to agree that provisions of an agreement such as the Practitioners Disciplinary Procedure should be contractual between them (rather than advisory or hortatory or an expression of aspiration), and if so which provisions. The indicia that a provision is to be taken to have contractual status which are, I think, of some relevance to this case include these:
i) The importance of the provision to the contractual working relationship between the employer and the employee and its relationship to the contractual arrangements between them: … provisions important to implementing the agreement about exclusion and about conduct hearings are also apt to be contractual: the more important the provision to the structure of the procedures, the more likely it is that the parties intended it to be contractual. As Auld LJ said in Keeley v Fosroc International Ltd, [2006] IRLR 961 (which concerned whether provisions relating to enhanced redundancy payments in a Staff Handbook were enforceable as part of individual contracts of employment),
"Highly relevant in any consideration, contextual or otherwise, of an "incorporated" provision in an employment contract, is the importance of the provision to the over-all bargain, here, the employee's remuneration package – what he undertook to work for. A provision of that sort, even if couched in terms of information or explanation, or expressed in discretionary terms, may still be apt for construction as a terms of his contract … ." ( at para 34).
ii) The level of detail prescribed by the provision: as Penry-Davey J said in >i>Kulkarni v Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Trust, [2008] IRLR 949 at para 25, the courts should not "become involved in the micro-management of conduct hearings", and the parties to the contract of employment are not to be taken to have intended that they should be. (In the Court of Appeal in Kulkarni, (loc cit) at para 22, Smith LJ endorsed this observation of Penry-Davis J.)
iii) The certainty of what the provision requires: as Swift J observed (in Hameed (loc cit) at para 68), if a provision is vague or discursive, it is the less apt to have contractual status.
iv) The context of the provision: a provision included amongst other provisions that are contractual is itself more likely to have been intended to have contractual status than one included among other provisions which provide guidance or are otherwise not apt to be contractual.
v) Whether the provision is workable, or would be if it were taken to have contractual status; the parties are not to be taken to have intended to introduce into their contract of employment terms which, if enforced, not be workable or make business sense: see Malone v British Airways, [2010] EWCA Civ 1225 at para 62.

 

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