Successful appeal reinstates fixed-term contract but does not extend it
Prakash v Wolverhampton City Council, EAT, 6 September 2006
The council employed Mr Prakash from 1 November 2001 on a three-year fixed-term contract, due to terminate on 31 October 2004. In 2003, the council investigated allegations against him of bullying and sexual harassment, and following a disciplinary hearing, he was dismissed with effect from 23 October 2003, and no wages were paid to him thereafter.
Prakash appealed. However, the appeal hearing did not take place until 3 February 2005 – 16 months after his dismissal. The appeal was successful and he was offered re-engagement in a suitable post and placed on the council’s redeployment register.
In January 2004, before his appeal had been heard, Prakash lodged a tribunal claim for unfair dismissal based on a termination date of 23 October 2003. He subsequently contended three alternative termination dates between February and October 2005, namely, the dates of the formal appeal decision, when his six months on the redeployment register expired and when his name was actually removed from the register.
The council argued that Prakash’s dismissal took place at the end of the fixed-term contract (31 October 2004) and that his claim was, therefore, premature. The tribunal agreed with the council. Prakash appealed to the EAT.
The EAT agreed with the tribunal and dismissed the appeal, ruling that the resurrection of a fixed-term contract following a successful appeal simply resurrects the contract’s original terms. Reinstatement puts the claimant back in the position they were at the time of dismissal it does not extend their contractual rights. If an appeal against dismissal takes place after the expiry of the original fixed term (as in this case), a successful appeal does not extend the fixed-term contract beyond its expiry date.
This case is the first to deal with a fixed-term contract and the decision is a sensible one. To hold otherwise would mean that those whose appeal was heard after the expiry of their fixed-term contract would be in better a position than those whose appeal took place earlier.