Case roundup

This week’s case roundup

Long-term sickness frustrates contract
Hogan v Cambridgeshire County Council, IRLB 677 EAT

Between November 1994 and May 1995 Hogan was on sick leave. In August 1995
she was suspended pending investigation into allegations of misconduct but was
signed off work with depression before the disciplinary hearing took place. Her
contractual sick pay ended in May 1996 and in September, without telling the
Council, she began a three-year degree course. In February 1997 the Council
wrote to Hogan informing her the contract had come to an end by reason of
frustration.

Hogan unsuccessfully claimed unfair dismissal. The tribunal considered a
number of relevant factors to determine whether Hogan’s incapacity was such
that her performance of the contract would either be impossible or radically
different to her original terms.

Hogan did not hold a key post, her entitlement to sick pay ended in May
1996, she had a long period of service and could be expected to work until
retirement. Moreover, ill health retirement had been recommended in 1996 and
there was a poor prognosis. Although frustration occurs independently as a
matter of law, commencing the degree course was relevant evidence of whether
the circumstances had fundamentally changed. The EAT upheld the decision even
though the Council did not complete the ill health termination procedure which
dealt with the frustrating event.

Care needed when settling claims
Duru v Granada Retail Catering Limited, IDS Brief 697, EAT

Duru claimed unfair dismissal. On 1 December 1999 Granada asked ACAS to put
forward a settlement offer of £250. During a telephone call on 13 December,
Duru asked ACAS to put the offer in writing but ACAS refused. Duru said that he
was prepared to accept the offer and that he would contact ACAS on receipt of
the draft agreement.

That same day, ACAS informed Granada of the acceptance and provided a draft
agreement to Granada. Later that day, in a second call, Duru told ACAS he
wanted Granada to put the offer in writing before he accepted. Granada refused:
it had already signed and returned the agreement. The tribunal held Duru had
unconditionally accepted the offer during the first call even though the
agreement had not been signed at that time.

Duru successfully appealed to the EAT. The tribunal failed to consider the
contractual principles of offer and acceptance when determining whether the
agreement was binding. Granada did not intend to be bound by Duru’s
"acceptance" of the £250 until satisfactory written terms were
agreed. Likewise, it was Duru’s intention that the terms were subject to
written agreement.

Although oral agreements through ACAS can be binding, in this case no
agreement had been reached.

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