Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

The facts in Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

This case encapsulated two appeals to the Supreme Court – Edwards (“the Respondent”)  v Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (“the Appellant”) and Botham (FC) v Ministry of Defence. Both employees had been dismissed by their respective employers for the reason of gross misconduct. Both Edwards and Botham had clauses in their contracts of employment stipulating that a certain procedure should be carried out in disciplinary proceedings. In both cases the stipulated disciplinary procedure was deviated from and both employees were dismissed. The contention of the two Claimants at the Employment Tribunal was that they would not have been dismissed but for their employers’ failure to implement the agreed-upon disciplinary procedure. Botham succeeded in the Employment Tribunal in his claim for unfair dismissal but issued in the High Court for breach of contract. Edwards also issued a claim for breach of contract (among other claims) for breach of contract.

The law relating to unfair dismissal and breach of contract

The general principle in contract law is that the purpose of damages is to put the innocent party in the position that they would have been in but for the breach of contract. Thus, if an employer terminates a contract without notice and does so in breach of contract, the employee may have a claim for breach of contract. This would be a claim for wrongful dismissal. Damages for the wrongful dismissal (in a case where an employee is, for example, dismissed for gross misconduct) would amount to the number of weeks that the employee should have served in notice but was denied. If an employer fails to follow a contractual disciplinary procedure then damages are limited to the period of time it would have taken for the employer to put the contractual procedure into effect and be concluded.

However, no damages may be awarded for the manner in which the employee is dismissed. Unfairness, in particular, in the manner of dismissal does not give rise to a common law action for breach of contract (Johnson v Unisys). Employees have traditionally therefore been unable to claim damages for breach of contract that (they contended) resulted in their dismissal (and damages). This rule was challenged again in Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

The Supreme Court’s judgment in Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal of the Appellant and reasserted the Johnson v Unisys test ­– that employees cannot recover damages for loss suffered from breach of terms of their contract of employment if that breach of contract relates to their dismissal. Remedy for the manner of dismissal is only available through pursuit of a statutory claim of unfair dismissal under the Employment Rights Act 1996, not through a common law action.

Our thoughts on Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Although this result may seem a little unfair on employees who have been unfairly dismissed because of an alleged failure to follow a contractual disciplinary procedure, the decision of the Supreme Court is not unreasonable. If a particular remedy is made available to employees by Parliament for unfair dismissal (through the Employment Rights Act 1996), employees cannot circumvent these provisions by pursuing a common law claim for breach of contract.

About Chris Hadrill

Chris is a specialist employment lawyer at Redmans. He specialises in contentious and non-contentious employment matters, including breach of contract claims, compromise agreements and Employment Tribunal cases. He writes on employment law matters on a variety of websites, including Direct 2 Lawyers, Lawontheweb.co.uk, LegalVoice, the Justice Gap and his own blog. Contact Chris by emailing him at chadrill@redmans.co.uk

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

Our awards

Request a callback

Your name

Your email

Your telephone number

Contact us

Please feel free to discuss your own position and concerns. Contact your nearest office on:

T: 020 3397 3603
E: enquiries@redmans.co.uk
W: www.redmans.co.uk

Testimonials

4.63 Average

30 Reviews

Anonymous

Immediate response to my initial enquiry. Very clear throughout the whole process and thorough and great communication which worked really well during quite a stressful time. Chris Hadrill was extremely helpful and made me feel at ease.

Posted 2 months ago

Nick D

I received a very professional service from Chris. The advice given really helped to leave me comfortable to sign the settlement agreement following my redundancy. Would be happy to recommend your services to others.

Posted 2 months ago

Anonymous

Excellent service from initial contact to deliverables.

Posted 3 months ago

Virginia K

Yes, Chris Hadrill answered all my questions and I feel more confident with my current situation

Posted 3 months ago

Anonymous

Chris Hadrill was referred to me my a friend of mine. I found the service to be efficient, quick and like Chris's direct approach to my work. Well done and thank you Chris!

Posted 3 months ago

Andy W

Very prompt & structured service that helped put my mind at rest at a difficult time

Posted 3 months ago

Anonymous

I have found Redmans to be very helpful, diligant and thoroughly professional when dealing with them, plus they gone that extra mile for me !

Posted 3 months ago

Anonymous

Thank you to Chris Hadrill at Redmans for his assistance in settling my case. I contacted him at the very last minute and he was happy to help me and managed to get everything done on time and in a very professional manner. I will definitely be happy to work with him again .

Posted 3 months ago

Redman's provided excellent legal employment advice for me during a difficult time in my employment. Chris was my lawyer, super efficient, quick, reliable and clearly very experienced in the matter. Could not ask for a better law firm to deal with your query if you are in need of some help. Would definitely use them again in the future. Highly recommending Chris.

Posted 7 months ago

Steven

Chris Hadrill was very professional and responsive. I would highly recommend him

Posted 7 months ago

Dinah

Very Efficient, with very quick email reply’s. I had a matter that needed resolving within a very short space of time and Redmans Solicitors were great with dealing with my matter quickly.

Posted 7 months ago

Ankar

At Redmans the solicitor that was dealing with me was Chris. He dealt with my situation smoothly with clear guidance and explanation

Posted 7 months ago

Anonymous

Clear, concise advice and guidance delivered by an experienced and very capable solicitor, within the timelines required

Posted 8 months ago

Anonymous

Very efficient service. I never had to wIt for more than a day for a reply to any of my queries and the matter was dealt with swiftly.

Posted 8 months ago

Anonymous

Very timely, thorough and helpful advice. Friendly and considerate of the needs of the client

Posted 8 months ago

Anonymous

Very prompt and attention to detail. Thank you for the service

Posted 8 months ago

Chris

Couldn’t be happier with how Redmans successfully handled our seemingly tricky case. By being clear and detailed every step of the way, with the utmost professionalism and courtesy, they made it an informative and eye-opening process, taking the stress out of the situation and ultimately delivered what you would want from such a service. I fully appreciate everything they have done, and if I am ever in need of such services in the future, they will be the first number I contact. Excellent.

Posted 8 months ago

Anonymous

Excellent work delivered with great quality

Posted 8 months ago

Dominic

Chris Hadrill was a great help both in terms of his advice and his expertise. He explained my options to me clearly and concisely enabling me to quickly make the right decision for me in the circumstance. I would not hesitate to recommend Chris or Redmans to friends or colleagues, and would certainly make Redmans my first port of call should I require a similar service in the future.

Posted 8 months ago

Kurt

Redmans gave excellent advice and helped me understand everything in clear concepts. Thank you!

Posted 8 months ago

Anonymous

Resolved my issues

Posted 8 months ago