Collective agreements and the contract of employment: Determining the intention of the parties or denying legitimate employee expectations?

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Abstract

A distinguishing feature of industrial relations in the United Kingdom is that, prima facie, collective agreements between trade unions and employers are not legally binding as it is presumed the parties do not intend the agreement to be legally enforceable. This principle was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in Ford Motor Co Ltd v AEUW[1] and later put into statutory form by s.179(1) Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. Although collective agreements are not ordinarily of any legal significance between employer and union, if they are translated into a contractual relationship between employer and employee, then they can have legal force at the individual level as a term of the contract of employment. To assume contractual validity the relevant clauses of the agreement must be incorporated into the contract of employment expressly or impliedly and must be of an individual nature; capable of being legally binding between the employer and the employee as an individual term. George v Ministry of Justice (George) is the latest case where the Court of Appeal has examined the factors that should be taken into account in determining when the terms of a collective agreement are incorporated into a contract of employment and when such a term is “apt” for incorporation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-149
Number of pages5
JournalThe Nottingham Law Journal
Volume23
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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