Employment - 1930- 1959

Employment Law. All matters relating to contracts between individuals and trade unions and employers, and procedural issues in the Industrial Tribunals system. See also Sex Discrimination and Race Relations Law, Health and Safety, and European Law.

These cases are extracted from a very large database. The entries on that database are now being published individually to the main swarb.co.uk website in a much improved form. As cases are published here, the entry here will be replaced by a link to the same case in that improved form on swarb.co.uk. In addition the swarb.co.uk site includes very substantial numbers of cases after 2000. Please take the time to look.  

This page lists 43 cases, and was prepared on 19 May 2014. These case are being transferred one by one to the main swarb.co.uk site which presents them better, with links to full text where we have it, and much improved cross referencing.
Young -v- Canadian Northern Railway Company; PC 25-Nov-1930
Sagar -v- Ridehalgh; 1931
Reid & Sigrist Ltd -v- Moss and Mechanism Ltd (1932) 49 RPC 461

Intellectual Property, Employment Casemap

An employee can be obliged not to use or disclose information acquired by him during his employment after leaving it in respect of designs or special methods of construction.
Withers -v- General Theatre Corporation Ltd; CA 1933
Barras -v- Aberdeen Steam Trawling & Fishing Co [1933] UKHL 3; (1933) 45 Ll L Rep 199; [1933] All ER Rep 52; 1933 SC (HL) 21; [1933] AC 402; 1933 SLT 338
17 Mar 1933
Viscount Buckmaster
Scotland, Employment, Transport, Litigation Practice Casemap

The court looked at the inference that a statute's draughtsman could be assumed when using a phrase to rely on a known interpretation of that phrase. Viscount Buckmaster said: "It has long been a well established principle to be applied in the consideration of Acts of Parliament that where a word of doubtful meaning has received a clear judicial interpretation, the subsequent statute which incorporates the same word or the same phrase in a similar context must be construed so that the word or phrase is interpreted according to the meaning that has previously been assigned to it."
Merchant Shipping (International Labour Conventions) Act, 1925 1
Link[s] omitted
Wessex Dairies Limited -v- Smith; CA 1935
Ebbw Vale Steel Co -v- Tew; CA 1935
Marriott -v- Minister of Health; 1936
Warner Brothers Pictures -v- Nelson; 1936
Re William Porter & Co Ltd [1937] 2 All ER 361

Simonds J
Employment, Company Casemap

1 Citers
Marriott -v- Minister of Health; CA 1937
Wilsons and Clyde Coal Co Ltd -v- English; HL 1938
British Industrial Plastics Ltd -v- Ferguson; CA 1938
Marrison -v- Bell; CA 1939
British Industrial Plastics Ltd -v- Ferguson [1940] 1 All ER 479
Employment, Information

The plaintiff's former employee offered the defendant information about one of the plaintiff's secret processes which he, as an employee, had invented. The defendant knew that the employee was obliged by his contract not to reveal trade secrets but mistakenly thought that if the process was patentable, it would be the exclusive property of the employee. He took the information in the honest belief that the employee would not be in breach of contract. Held: The former employer's appeal failed. The defendant was not guilty, in this state of mind, of having induced a breach of contract. Mr Ferguson did not deliberately abstain from inquiry into whether disclosure of the secret process would be a breach of contract. He negligently made the wrong inquiry, but that is an altogether different state of mind.
Collier -v- Sunday Referee Publishing Co; 1940
O’Grady -v- M Saper Ltd [1940] 2 KB 469
MacKinnon LJ
Employment Casemap

Wages are payable only as consideration for work done and if no work is done no wages are payable, though this depends entirely upon the terms of the contract. MacKinnon LJ said: "It was rightly said . . by Atkinson J. (Petrie v. Mac Fisheries Ltd. (1940) 1 K.B. 258, at p.269), 'The question must depend, as is indicated in the notes to Cutter v. Powell (1795) 6 T.R. 320 [101 E.R. 573] (Smith's Leading Cases, 13th ed. (1929), vol. 11, p.49), on the terms of the contract. "The right to wages depends upon whether the consideration therefor has been performed." It is submitted in the notes to that case, as I think rightly, that it must be ascertained from the contract whether the consideration for the payment of wages is the actual performance of the work, or whether the mere readiness and willingness, if of ability to do so, is the consideration.'"
Chadwick -v- Pioneer Private Telephone Co Ltd; 1941
Anderson -v- James Sutherland (Peterhead) Ltd; 1941
Newell -v- Gillingham Corporation; 1941
McMillan -v- Guest [1942] AC 561
Lord Wright
1 Citers
The House considered whether the taxpayer held a public office. Held: Lord Wright: The word 'office' as applied in an employment law context is of indefinite content. Lord Atkin: 'office' implies a subsisting, permanent, substantive position having an existence independent of the person who fills it, and which goes on and is filled in succession by successive holders.
Miller -v- Karlinski; CA 1945
Trussed Steel Concrete Ltd -v- Green [1946] 1 Ch 115

Cohen J
1 Cites
1 Citers
A company director required to work full time for the company in return for a salary may be an employee: "... the question I have to consider is ... whether a managing director serving under a contract such as that by which Mr Green is bound is a person employed in the undertaking within the meaning of the Essential Work (General Provisions) No. 2) Order, 1942. My attention has been called to a number of cases in which in certain contexts managing directors have been held not to be in the one case servants and in another case in the employment of a company . . . I think the right way of stating the conclusion I have reached is that there is nothing to prevent me giving to the words ‘persons employed in the undertaking’ in cl. 2 of the Essential Work (General Provisions) No. 2) Order, 1942, a wide meaning ..."
Essential Work (General Provisions) No. 2) Order 1942
Nokes -v- Doncaster Amalgamated Collieries Ltd; HL 1948
Humberstone -v- Northern Timber Mills (1949) 79 CLR 389

Dixon J
Commonwealth, Employment Casemap

The court considered whether a contract was one of employment: "The question is not whether in practice the work was in fact done subject to a direction and control exercised by any actual supervision or whether any actual supervision was possible but whether ultimate authority over the man in the performance of his work resided in the employer so that he was subject to the latter's order and directions."
Wrottesley -v- Regent Street Florida Restaurant [1951] 2 KB 277
Lord Goddard CJ
Employment Casemap
1 Citers
Waiters at an unlicensed restaurant (with their employer's agreement) put all tips into a box whose key was held by the head waiter. At the end of each week the contents were distributed between the waiters in accordance with their agreed entitlements. The weekly wage paid to each waiter by the employer fell below the minimum prescribed by the 1949 Regulations, but if each waiter's share of the boxed gratuities were added to the wage so paid, the total exceeded the prescribed minimum. The restaurant proprietors were prosecuted for failing to pay the minimum wage. Their obligation, under section 9(2) of the Order, was to 'pay' to the employee the statutory minimum remuneration. The magistrate dismissed the informations and the prosecutor appealed by way of case stated. Held. The reasoning was that the locked box – or tronc – contained money that the customers had given to the waiters, not to the employer. It thus became the waiters' property, and not the employer's, and so when it was shared out the waiters were dividing up their own money. It followed that it could not be taken into account in computing the amounts that the employer paid them by way of remuneration. It was not paid by their employers. Lord Goddard said: 'The amount of a man's earnings in an employment and the amount of remuneration which his employer pays to him are not necessarily the same thing.'
Wages Regulations (Unlicensed Place of Refreshment) Order 1949
Napier -v- National Business Agency Ltd [1951] 2 All ER 264
Employment Casemap
1 Citers
The plaintiff sought to sue for wrongful dismissal on a contract of employment under which he was paid £13 salary per week and £6 "expenses", when his expenses could never exceed £1 per week. Held: The parties had made this bargain knowing well that the expenses figure was a sham figure and that by making the agreement in that form they were intending to defeat the proper claims of the Revenue. The contract was therefore against public policy and unenforceable.
Stephenson Jordan and Harrison Limited -v- Macdonald and Evans [1952] 1 TLR 101; [1952] RCOC 10
3 Dec 1951
Sir Raymoind Evershed MR, Denning and Morris LJJ
Intellectual Property, Employment
An accountant engineer employed by the plaintiffs assigned to the defendants the copyright in a work derived from public lectures he had given. The plaintiffs obtained an injunction saying that the work contained confidential material and that having been prepared in the course of his employment, the copyright belonged to them. The publishers appealed. Held: The defendant's appeal succeeded in part. The claim of breach of confidence was not supported by the evidence and failed. The bulk of the work was derived from public lectures given outside the scope of the author's employment as an accountant, and he owned and could assign the copyrights. In particular it seemed that some was written after the termination of the employment. Certain parts of it however were created as part of his employment and were not his to assign. There was a mixed contract with certain parts created under a contract of employment, and certain under a contract for services.
Copyright Act 1911 5(1)(b)
Stevenson -v- Macdonald (1952) 1 TLR 101

Denning J
Contract, Employment Casemap

Denning J described the difference between a contract of service and a contract for services: "It is often easy to recognise a contract of service when you see it, but difficult to say wherein the difference lies. A ship's master, a chauffeur, and a reporter on the staff of a newspaper are all employed under a contract, of service; but a ship's pilot, a taximan, and a newspaper contributor are employed under a contract for services".
Re Charles Selz's Application (1953) 71 RPC 158

Lloyd-Jacob J
Intellectual Property, Employment Casemap

The applicant was general manager of a factory of a lamp-shade maker. At a packaging exhibition he visited for his employer, he was shown some 'spray plastic' packaging. It occurred to him that spray plastic was capable of uses other than packaging, including making lampshades. He applied for a patent for his invention. The employer applied to the Comptroller for a declaration to the effect that he was entitled to the invention. The employer's claim was dismissed by the Comptroller. Held: The emloyer's appeal failed. Lloyd-Jacob J: "I find myself in general agreement with the conclusion arrived at in the Court below. The circumstances in which the invention was made cannot fairly be said to derive directly from the employers' business, and I can see no ground for holding that the relationship between Mr. Warren-Smith and his employers was such as to make it incumbent upon him to do more than to keep them informed of this particular activity in connection with his invention, and of his action in applying for patent protection in connection with it."
Terrell -v- Secretary of State for the Colonies [1953] QB 482

Employment, Legal Professions Casemap
1 Citers
A statutory office holder such as a judge is not employed under a contract.
McDonald -v- John Twiname Ltd; 1953
Dale -v- Inland Revenue Commissioners; HL 1954
Attorney-General for New South Wales -v- Perpetual Trustee Co Ltd [1955] AC 457
Commonwealth, Employment

(Australia) A chief constable was an office held under the Crown, and the usual relationship of master and servant did not apply.
Zuijs -v- Wirth Brothers Proprietary Ltd [1955] 93 CLR 561

Employment Casemap

The court considered the extent of authority to be established to show the relationship of employer and employee: "What matters is lawful authority to command so far as there is scope for it. And there must always be some room for it, if only in incidental or collateral matters."
Patchett -v- Stirling Engineering Co Ltd (1955) 72 RPC 50

Viscount Simonds
Employment, Intellectual Property
1 Citers
The court considered the position at common law of an employee claiming to patent his invention: "It is elementary that, where the employee in the course of his employment (ie in his employer's time and with his materials) makes an invention which falls within his duty to make (as was the case here) he holds his interest in the invention, and in any resulting patent, as trustee for the employer unless he can show that he has a beneficial interest which the law recognises." The source of an employee's duty is primarily contractual, though some of the terms are implied by law.
Vine -v- National Dock Labour Board [1956] 1 All ER 1
Jenkins LJ
Employment Casemap

The plaintiff complained as to the way he had been dismissed. He was employed as a dock labourer under a statutory scheme. The Board said that the power of dismissal was given by the statute and that therefore the standard rules on dismissal did not apply. Held: Jenkins LJ said: "In the ordinary case of master and servant, however, the repudiation or the wrongful dismissal puts an end to the contract, and a claim for damages arises. It is necessarily a claim for damages and nothing more. The nature of the bargain is such that it can be nothing more."
M and S Drapers (a Firm) -v- Reynolds; CA 1956
Huntley -v- Thornton; 1957
National Coal Board -v- Galley; CA 1958
Scala Ballroom (Wolverhampton) Ltd -v- Ratcliffe [1958] EWCA Civ 4; [1958] 1 WLR 1057; [1958] 3 All ER 220
30 Jul 1958
[ Bailii ]
Laws -v- London Chronicle (Indicator Newspapers) Ltd; CA 1959
Kores Manufacturing Co Ltd -v- Kolok Manufacturing Ltd [1959] Ch 109
Jenkins LJ
Employment Casemap
1 Citers
When considering a post employment restrictive covenant on an employee, the court should allow that an employer has a legitimate interest in maintaining a stable and trained workforce. However, even accepting that interest, an employer has no legitimate interest to prevent an employee, upon termination from taking employment with a competitor.
Jenkins LJ said: "Apart from the question of trade secrets and confidential information, we have described the matter requiring protection as being the adequacy and stability of the plaintiffs’ and defendants’ respective complements of employees. That, no doubt, is an interest which employers are entitled to protect by all legitimate means, as by paying good wages and making their employment attractive. We have further described the danger against which that interest required protection as being the unimpeded secession of employees of either of the parties to that of the other of them under the inducement of higher wages or better working conditions. But an employer has no legitimate interest in preventing an employee, after leaving his service, from entering the service of a competitor merely on the ground that the new employer is a competitor. The danger of the adequacy and stability of his complement of employees being impaired through employees leaving his service and entering that of a rival is not a danger against which he is entitled to protect himself by exacting from his employees covenants that they will not, after leaving his service, enter the service of any competing concern. If in the present case the plaintiffs had taken a covenant from each of their employees that he would not enter the service of the defendants at any time during the five years next following the termination of his service with the plaintiffs, and the defendants had taken from their employees covenants restraining them in similar terms from entering the employment of the plaintiffs, we should have thought that (save possibly in very exceptional cases involving trade secrets, confidential information and the like) all such covenants would on the face of them be bad as involving a restraint of trade which was unreasonable as between the parties. Here the plaintiffs and the defendants have, as it seems to us, sought to do indirectly that which they could not do directly, by reciprocal undertakings between themselves not to employ each other’s former employees, entered into over the heads of their respective employees, and without their knowledge. It seems to us to be open to question whether an agreement such as that, directed to preventing employees of the parties from doing that which they could not by individual covenants with their respective employers validly bind themselves not to do, should be accorded any greater validity than individual covenants by the employees themselves would possess."