- By Paul Sullivan
The Supreme Court in London recently considered when the clock starts ticking for employment law claims.
The applicants were four judges who had previously been engaged in various fee-paid part-time judicial roles without any formal contracts of employment. They sought equal treatment for pension rights under the EU Part-time Workers’ Directive.
The Employment Tribunal took the view that, as their claims had been lodged more than three months after the end of their part-time appointments, they were out of time. This position was adopted by the Upper Tribunal and then by the Court of Appeal without any substantial degree of legal scrutiny.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court determined that the relevant time limit ran from when the benefit was to be drawn down rather than the conclusion of the part-time appointment. Although judicial officers are not employed under a contract of employment, the Part-time Workers’ Directive must be construed in an artificial context by analogy. The term ‘qualifying judicial office’ may well include several different appointments. Lord Carnwath noted that this approach 'accords with the common sense of the matter'.
With hundreds of judicial claimants waiting in the wings, it has been reported that this decision could cost the Ministry of Justice up to £1billion.
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