The Court of Appeal in the case of Department for Transport v Sparks recently upheld the High Court’s decisions.

A short-term absence management policy was contractual.

Court holds absence policy in staff handbook to be contractual

The Court of Appeal in the case of Department for Transport v Sparks recently upheld the High Court’s decisions that a short-term absence management policy was contractual.
 

The Court of Appeal in the case of Department for Transport v Sparks recently upheld the High Court’s decisions that a short-term absence management policy was contractual.
 

The result of the terms being contractual was that it restricted managers’ scope for taking disciplinary action until an employee had exceeded 21 days short term absence in one year. The employer’s later attempts to vary this policy were considered by the court not to be effective in varying the contractual terms.
 

The court reasoned that the wording at the beginning of the handbook pointed to a ‘distinct flavour of contractual incorporation.’ This case highlights the importance of careful drafting in a company handbook. If a handbook were, for example, to say that a policy was there as a ‘framework within with to approach such matters’ it would be unlikely to be considered to be contractual as it would be guidance only. Each case will be decided on its individual facts.

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