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A look back at six of the biggest employment law cases from 2015

As the country shuffles back to work following the Christmas and New Year festivities, last year seems like a distant mulled wine induced blur. To help get your brain juices flowing again, we look back at the six biggest developments in employment law in 2015.

1. Usdaw and another v WW Realisation 1 Ltd (in liquidation) and others (the Woolworths case) (ECJ)

What did it cover? Collective consultation and the definition of ‘establishment’.

In this case, the ECJ ruled that employers need not aggregate staff numbers over multiple establishments when considering their collective consultation obligations in relation to redundancies. You may have heard the massive sigh of relief from HR professionals throughout the country as the judgment dropped. Until the Court of Appeal approve this ECJ decision in its judgment however (which we are pretty sure it will later this year), we urge caution in relying on this judgment in collective consultation situations. 

Our breaking news bulletin from April 2015 can be found here:


2. Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL, Tyco Integrated Fire & Security Corporation Servicios SA(ECJ)

What did it cover? Working time and travel time.

In this ECJ case, it was ruled that travel time should, in certain circumstances, be classed as working time. In short, it was decided that workers with no set place of work could count travel time from their homes to the first job of the day as working time. 

Check out our article from September 2015 for more detail on this case:


3. Chesterton Global Ltd (t/a Chestertons) and another v Nurmohamed (EAT)

What did it cover? Whistleblowing and the Public Interest test.

The first real challenge to the new wording in the whistleblowing regulations arrived in 2015. In this case, the EAT ruled that an employee’s complaint about company finances that affected fellow workers was indeed “in the public interest”. It appears to have significantly broadened what allegations are “in the public interest”.

Our bulletin on the subject can be found here:


4. Stevens v University of Birmingham (High Court)

What did it cover? The right to be accompanied at disciplinary meetings.

This case caused a wave of phone calls to BPE offices from employers worried about exactly which representatives are now allowed to attend disciplinary hearings.  

In this article, we summarise exactly what you should be doing when faced with such a request as you may be required to allow an employee to be accompanied by more than a work colleague or trade union representative:


5. Ramphal v Department for Transport (EAT)

What did it cover? HR involvement in dismissal.

This EAT case looked at the involvement of HR in disciplinary matters and, in particular, the extent of advice that can be provided by HR to disciplining officers.

Our bulletin on this case can be read here:


And the winner of BPE’s coveted Case of the Year goes to……

6. Lock v British Gas (ECJ)

What did it cover? Holiday pay and commission.

We’ve saved the best until last. There can be no argument that this was indeed the biggest case of the year. In short, the ECJ ruled that commission must be included in holiday pay when intrinsically linked to the performance of tasks under a worker's contract. Whilst many companies are still awaiting the results of an appeal by British Gas to the EAT, the ECJ judgment certainly caused shockwaves throughout UK businesses to warrant special mention.

Mr Lock took his holiday pay case to the ECJ in an attempt to have UK law surrounding holiday pay clarified. The resulting judgment has changed the face of commission payments and caused many UK employers to revaluate their business models. 

Since our bulletin in May 2015, British Gas has, as set out above, appealed the ECJ decision in December 2015 to the EAT. We are still awaiting the judgment of that appeal at the time of this article. Look out for that judgment in early 2016.  However, in the meantime, have a read of the background and the ECJ reasoning for its judgment in our article from May 2015:


These notes have been prepared for the purpose of articles only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. 

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