Is an absence management policy contractually binding?
Department for Transport v Maureen Sparks & Ors.  EWCA Civ 360
In this recent case the Court of Appeal had to decide whether the absence management policy in the employee handbook was “apt for incorporation” into the Department’s contracts of employment.
The dispute arose over certain parts of the staff handbook. The employees argued that the parts formed contractual terms and were binding on the employer. Mainly the provisions restricted managers’ rights to take disciplinary action until an employee exceeded 21 days of short-term absence in any 12 month period.
The Court reviewed the employment documents as a whole and it held that the introductory wording of the staff handbook showed an intention of incorporation into the Department’s contracts of employment.
In practice industrial managers may want to have a non-contractual absence policy to fall back on, but it should be worded accordingly. In contrast in a previous case, the wording “framework within which to approach such matters” was held not to be enough to incorporate terms in the contracts of employment.
For advice on employment matters please contact Alan Massenhove director of our employment team.