10 SEP 2015
Norman v National Audit Office UKEAT/0275/14;  IRLR 635; (2015) EMPLR 038
15 December 2014
Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT)
HHJ Hand QC, Ms P Tatlow and Miss S M Wilson CBE
Contracts of employment can only be amended with the agreement of both the employer and the employee. Some contracts include clauses whereby the employee agrees to the employer having the right to amend the contract. Courts and tribunals only allow amendments to be made under such clauses if the wording of the clause is clear and unambiguous. This case is an example of wording that was not clear and unambiguous.
The Audit Office wanted to change the contractual rules on sick pay. It relied on a clause in a letter summarising the terms of employment, which included the following:
‘They are subject to amendment; any significant changes affecting staff in general will be notified by … policy circulars … while any changes affecting your particular terms and conditions will be notified separately to you.’
The EAT held this wording was ‘nowhere near’ clear and unambiguous. It merely stated what would happen if terms were changed; it did not state the mechanism for changing them nor did it suggest that the employer could make changes without the employees’ consent.