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EMPLOYMENT STATUS: Are contract terms worth the paper they’re written on?

23 September 2011  

Stephen Ratcliffe and Colin Leckey examine the impact of a recent Supreme Court decision about when courts and tribunals should disregard express written contractual terms

The Supreme Court in Autoclenz Ltd v Belcher & ors [2011] has addressed the controversial issue of tribunals ignoring written contractual terms where they do not represent the reality of the relationship between the parties. On the face of it, the decision represents a welcome clarification of the approach to be taken to interpreting contracts that appear to be designed to avoid employment status. However, some commentators have suggested that its impact is far wider, potentially entitling employees to challenge any contract term that they consider does not represent the truth of the parties’ obligations. Any such impact would be of significant concern to employers and their advisers, as it would undermine the apparent certainty provided by asking employees and workers to sign written terms.

Additional Info

  • Case(s) Referenced:

    Autoclenz Ltd v Belcher & ors [2011] UKSC 41

    Commerzbank AG v Keen [2006] EWCA Civ 1536

    Consistent Group Ltd v Kalwak & ors [2007] UKEAT 0535/06/1805

    Consistent Group Ltd v Kalwak & ors [2008] EWCA Civ 430

    Protectacoat Firthglow Ltd v Szilagyi [2009] EWCA Civ 98

    Snook v London & West Riding Investments Ltd [1967] 2 QB 786

Last modified on 02 June 2015