Murray v Foyle Meats Ltd

Last updated

Murray v Foyle Meats Ltd
CourtHouse of Lords
Citation(s)[1999] UKHL 30, [1999] ICR 827

Murray v Foyle Meats Ltd [1999] UKHL 30 is a UK labour law case, concerning redundancy, specifically the interpretation of the Employment Rights Act 1996.



Foyle Meats Ltd's slaughtering business was declining. The company eliminated one production line in the slaughter hall, and 35 meat plant operatives were made redundant from the slaughter hall. The employees all had flexibility clauses, and they sometimes rotated departments to the boning or loading hall, etc. The dismissed employees claimed they were not redundant because the employer still needed workers under the same terms, just in different departments.


Lord Irvine LC held that the operatives were redundant and that "the language of the [Employment Rights Act 1996 section 139(1)(b)] is in my view simplicity itself". He referred to Nelson v BBC [1] which had wrongly propagated the "contract test" view, which was wrong. A simple causation test was applied, based on the word "attributable" in the statute. Did diminishing demand for labor cause the dismissal?

The argument before the Employment Appeal Tribunal turned on whether the ‘contract test’ ought to be applied (i.e. did the company require fewer employees [sic] of the kind specified in Mr Pink’s contract)…


  1. [1977] ICR 649, Megaw LJ, Roskill LJ and Browne LJ

Related Research Articles

United Kingdom labour law Law in the United Kingdom

United Kingdom labour law regulates the relations between workers, employers and trade unions. People at work in the UK benefit from a minimum charter of employment rights, which are found in various Acts, Regulations, common law and equity. This includes the right to a minimum wage of £8.21 for over-25-year-olds under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998. The Working Time Regulations 1998 give the right to 28 days paid holidays, breaks from work, and attempts to limit excessively long working hours. The Employment Rights Act 1996 gives the right to leave for child care, and the right to request flexible working patterns. The Pensions Act 2008 gives the right to be automatically enrolled in a basic occupational pension, whose funds must be protected according to the Pensions Act 1995.

Unfair dismissal in the United Kingdom is the part of UK labour law that requires fair, just and reasonable treatment by employers in cases where a person's job could be terminated. The Employment Rights Act 1996 regulates this by saying that employees are entitled to a fair reason before being dismissed, based on their capability to do the job, their conduct, whether their position is economically redundant, on grounds of a statute, or some other substantial reason. It is automatically unfair for an employer to dismiss an employee, regardless of length of service, for becoming pregnant, or for having previously asserted certain specified employment rights. Otherwise, an employee must have worked for two years. This means an employer only terminates an employee's job lawfully if the employer follows a fair procedure, acts reasonably and has a fair reason.

Employment Rights Act 1996 United Kingdom Law

The Employment Rights Act 1996 is a United Kingdom Act of Parliament passed by the Conservative government to codify existing law on individual rights in UK labour law.

<i>Nethermere (St Neots) Ltd v Gardiner</i> United Kingdom employment law court case

Nethermere Ltd v Gardiner And Another [1984] ICR 612 is a UK labour law case in the Court of Appeal in the field of home work and vulnerable workers. Many labour and employment rights, such as unfair dismissal, in Britain depend on one's status as an "employee" rather than being "self-employed", or some other "worker". This case stands for the proposition that where "mutuality of obligation" between employers and casual or temporary workers exists to offer work and accept it, the court will find that the applicant has a "contract of employment" and is therefore an employee.

Redfearn v Serco Ltd [2012] ECHR 1878 is a UK labour law and European Court of Human Rights case. It held that UK law was deficit in not allowing a potential claim based on discrimination for one's political belief. Before the case was decided, the Equality Act 2010 provided a remedy to protect political beliefs, though it had not come into effect when this case was brought forth.

<i>Southern Foundries (1926) Ltd v Shirlaw</i>

Southern Foundries (1926) Ltd v Shirlaw [1940] AC 701 is an important English contract law and company law case. In the field of contracts it is well known for MacKinnon LJ's decision in the Court of Appeal, where he put forth the "officious bystander" formulation for determining what terms should be implied into agreements by the courts. In the field of company law, it is known primarily to stand for the principle that damages may be sought for breach of contract by a director even though a contract may de facto constrain the exercise of powers to sack people found in the company's constitution.

<i>Western Excavating (ECC) Ltd v Sharp</i>

Western Excavating (ECC) Ltd v Sharp [1978] ICR 221 is a UK labour law case, concerning unfair dismissal, now governed by the Employment Rights Act 1996.

<i>Gisda Cyf v Barratt</i>

Gisda Cyf v Barratt [2010] UKSC 41 is a UK labour law case, concerning unfair dismissal governed by the Employment Rights Act 1996.

<i>Polkey v AE Dayton Services Ltd</i>

Polkey v AE Dayton Services Ltd [1987] UKHL 8 is a UK labour law case, concerning unfair dismissal, now governed by the Employment Rights Act 1996.

<i>Alemo-Herron v Parkwood Leisure Ltd</i>

Alemo-Herron v Parkwood Leisure Ltd (2013) C-426/11 is an EU law and UK labour law case concerning whether an employer may agree to incorporate a collective agreement into an individual contract, and if that agreement has a provision for automatic updating of some terms, whether that transfers under the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations 2006. The UK Supreme Court referred to the European Court of Justice the question whether national courts could give a more favourable interpretation to legislation than had been given by German courts.

Redundancy in United Kingdom law concerns the rights of employees if they are dismissed for economic reasons in UK labour law.

An employment contract in English law is a specific kind of contract whereby one person performs work under the direction of another. The two main features of a contract is that work is exchanged for a wage, and that one party stands in a relationship of relative dependence, or inequality of bargaining power. On this basis, statute, and to some extent the common law, requires that compulsory rights are enforceable against the employer.

<i>Autoclenz Ltd v Belcher</i>

Autoclenz Ltd v Belcher [2011] UKSC 41 is a landmark UK labour law and English contract law case decided by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, concerning the scope of statutory protection of rights for working individuals. It confirmed the view, also taken by the Court of Appeal, that the relative bargaining power of the parties must be taken into account when deciding whether a person counts as an employee, to get employment rights. As Lord Clarke said,

the relative bargaining power of the parties must be taken into account in deciding whether the terms of any written agreement in truth represent what was agreed and the true agreement will often have to be gleaned from all the circumstances of the case, of which the written agreement is only a part. This may be described as a purposive approach to the problem.

<i>Cable & Wireless plc v Muscat</i>

Cable & Wireless plc v Muscat [2006] EWCA Civ 220 is a UK labour law case, concerning the test for an implied contract between an employee and a place they work through an employment agency. It holds that with reference to the reality of the relationship, an implied contract should be found according to the ordinary rules of construction.

Oakland v Wellswood (Yorkshire) Ltd is a UK labour law case concerning transfers of undertakings, and the job security rights of employees.

Ravat v Halliburton Manufacturing and Services Ltd [2012] UKSC 1 is a UK labour law case, concerning the test for when workers are covered by employment rights when they work abroad.

<i>Reda v Flag Ltd</i>

Reda v Flag Ltd [2002] UKPC 38 is a case from Bermuda law, advised upon by the Privy Council, that is relevant for UK labour law and UK company law concerning the dismissal of a director.

<i>Nelson v BBC</i> (No 2)

Nelson v BBC [1980] ICR 110 is a UK labour law case, concerning unfair dismissal and the role of contributory fault.

<i>High Table Ltd v Horst</i>

High Table Ltd v Horst [1997] EWCA Civ 2000 is a UK labour law case, concerning redundancy in English Law in the Court of Appeal, the highest court within the Senior Courts of England and Wales, and second only to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

<i>Bryson v Three Foot Six Ltd</i>

Bryson v Three Foot Six Ltd was a decision of the Supreme Court of New Zealand regarding the real status of a worker as either an employee or an independent contractor. The case concerned whether or not the Employment Court had erred in law by determining that Bryson was an employee of Three Foot Six Ltd. The decision has been made redundant in the film industry by the passage in 2010 of the Employment Relations Amendment Act during the production of The Hobbit.