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The 12 employment cases of 2019

  • United Kingdom
  • Employment law - HR E-Brief


As the year draws to a close we highlight 12 of the most significant employment law cases of 2019:

Working time

Crawford v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd: CA ruled an “equivalent period of compensatory rest” need not comprise an uninterrupted 20 minutes. The key question is whether the rest afforded to a worker has the same value in terms of contributing to their well-being.

Arrow  Read our briefing: Court of Appeal rules on rest breaks

Holiday pay

Flowers v East of England NHS Trust*: CA upheld a ruling that holiday pay calculations should include pay received for voluntary overtime, rejecting a suggestion that a contractual obligation to work such overtime is required before it can be counted as "normal pay".

Arrow  Read our briefing: Court of Appeal rules on holiday pay and voluntary overtime

Chief Constable for the Police Service of Northern Ireland v Agnew & Others*: NICA held that workers did not lose the right to claim historic arrears of holiday pay where there was a gap of more than three months between underpayments.

Arrow  Read our briefing: Holiday pay latest: Appeal Court extends the scope of arrears in Northern Ireland

Harpur Trust v Brazel*: CA confirmed an employer was wrong to cap holiday pay at 12.07% of annualised hours for a zero hour contract employee working term-time, finding instead it should be based on average earnings over the 12 week period immediately before leave is taken.

Arrow  Read our briefing: Calculating holiday pay for irregular workers: Court clarifies correct approach

Disciplinary proceedings

Mayor and Burgesses of LB Lambeth v Agoreyo: a reminder from CA that there is no test of “necessity” when determining whether an employer is entitled to suspend an employee - instead an employer must decide, on the facts, whether it has reasonable and proper cause to suspend.
Arrow Read the judgment

Phoenix House Ltd v Stockman: EAT confirmed that although a situation where an employee covertly records a disciplinary hearing may amount to gross misconduct, all the circumstances will need to be considered, including the employee's motivation for making the recording.

Arrow Read the judgment

Workplace surveillance

López Ribalda v Spain: Grand Chamber of ECtHR found there had not been a breach of employees’ right to privacy when their employer used covert CCTV in the workplace. The use of CCTV had been justified by the employer’s reasonable suspicions and was appropriate for the legitimate aim of detecting theft.

Arrow  Read the judgment

Restrictive covenants

Tillman v Egon Zehnder: SC found a contractual restriction seeking to limit an ex-employee from “engaging, being concerned or interested in” any competing business was too broad and an unreasonable restraint of trade. However SC was willing to sever the offending words “interested in”, leaving an enforceable non-compete clause which the former employer could rely on.

Arrow  Read our briefing: Important Supreme Court ruling on Restrictive Covenants

Changing terms and conditions

Kostal v Dunkley*: CA overturned an EAT decision regarding trade union legislation which had restricted an employer’s ability to change employment terms in a unionised workplace without collective agreement.

Arrow  Read our briefing: Court of Appeal loosens limits to contractual change in absence of trade union collective agreement

Legal advice privilege

Shell International Limited v Curless (previously X v Y): a significant CA decision on whether legal advice privilege should be disapplied in relation to advice which is allegedly iniquitous (i.e. deliberately dishonest).

Arrow  Read our briefing: New developments in privilege in employment


Royal Mail v Jhuti: SC held that if a person in the hierarchy of responsibility above an employee determined that they should be dismissed for a reason, but hid it behind an invented reason which the decision-maker later adopted, the reason for the dismissal was the hidden, rather than the invented, reason.

Arrow  Read our briefing: Reason for dismissal – Supreme Court ruling in Royal Mail Group v Jhuti

Disability discrimination

Chief Constable of Norfolk v Coffey: CA found that legal protection from disability discrimination extends to a perception that an individual has a progressive condition likely to result in a disability in the future.

Arrow  Read our briefing: Court of Appeal rules that an employer cannot base a career decision on a perception that an employee’s health may deteriorate

* We understand permission to appeal is being sought.


CA Court of Appeal
CJEU Court of Justice of the European Union
EAT Employment Appeal Tribunal
ECtHR European Court of Human Rights
NICA Northern Ireland Court of Appeal
SC Supreme Court


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