Wandsworth London Borough Council v D’Silva and Another: CA 9 Dec 1997

The council wanted to change its Code of Practice on Staff Sickness. Employees objected. The Council argued that the Code was not part of the employment contract, and that in any event the contract reserved to the council the right to alter the terms and conditions.
Held: A Code of Practice was to be interpreted so as to indicate general practice within company and not as giving contractual rights to employees. Clauses allowing unilateral variation of contract were possible in law but must be clear.
Lord Woolf MR said: ‘The general position is that contracts of employment can only be varied by agreement. However in the employment field an employer or for that matter an employee can reserve the ability to change a particular aspect of the contract unilaterally by notifying the other party as part of the contract that this is the situation. However, clear language is required to reserve to one party an unusual power of this sort. In addition the Court is unlikely to favour an interpretation which does more than enable a party to vary contractual provisions with which that party is required to comply. If therefore the provisions of the code which the Council were seeking to amend in this case were of a contractual nature, then they could well be capable of unilateral variation as the counsel contends. In relation to the provisions as to appeals the position would be likely to be different. To apply a power of unilateral variation to the rights which an employee is given under this part of the code could produce an unreasonable result and the courts in construing a contract of employment will seek to avoid such a result.’


Lord Woolf MR, Millett LJ, Robert Walker LJ


Gazette 24-Jun-1998, [1997] EWCA Civ 2941, [1998] IRLR 193


England and Wales


Appeal fromLondon Borough of Wandsworth v D’Silva and Another EAT 17-Mar-1997
. .
CitedNational Coal Board v National Union of Mineworkers 1986
A collective agreement between employer and the recognised trades union was ‘inapt to become enforceable terms of an individual’s contract of employment.’ Such collective agreements may deal with the appropriate mechanisms for dealing with . .
EndorsedAlexander v Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd (No. 2) 1991
The court considered under what circumstances a collective agreement between an employer and trades unions would be incorporated into an individual employee’s contract: ‘The so-called ‘normative effect’ by which it can be inferred that provisions of . .

Cited by:

CitedTaylor v Against an Order and Judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal SCS 18-Dec-1998
The claimant prison officer had continued beyond the normal retirement age, but subject to a discretion and review. The service changed its retirement policy. He now challenged the requirement that he retire. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 06 August 2022; Ref: scu.90281