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Agnew: UNISON and Old Square Chambers succeed in landmark case before the Supreme Court


The Supreme Court has today handed down judgment in Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland v Agnew & Ors (Unison Intervening).

The Supreme Court has held that, when considering the meaning of “series” in the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 and the Employment Rights Act 1996, neither a gap of more than three months between unauthorised deductions from wages nor a single lawful payment automatically break the series.

The case has important implications for all claims for deduction from wages, and not just holiday pay claims. The judgment overrules the EAT decision in Bear Scotland, means employers can no longer argue a series is automatically broken by a three-month gap, and greatly increases the ability of workers to claim unlawful deduction from wages often going back many years.

In giving its judgment, the Supreme Court emphasised that the purpose of the legislative scheme is the protection of vulnerable workers from being paid too little for the work that they do. The Supreme Court held that to assume that a gap of more than three months breaks a series is inconsistent with the protective purpose of the legislation .

As noted by the Supreme Court, the answer to the question of the meaning of series may have a bearing on thousands of claims each year and so the cumulative impact is likely to be very significant indeed.

Michael Ford KC and Nicola Newbegin were both instructed by Shantha David, Head of Legal at UNISON Legal Services.


Further analysis to follow.

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