Case law: 'Entire agreement' clause in employment contract saves employer
Employers should ensure their employment contracts state that they constitute the entire agreement between the parties, so that employees cannot bring legal claims if promises made during the recruitment process are not kept, a recent decision makes clear.
This update was published in Legal Alert - March 2016
Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.
A new bank employee was told during the recruitment process that his discretionary bonus would be between 5 and 10 per cent. However, his letter of appointment:
- Made no mention of potential percentages or other sums payable by way of discretionary bonus
- Contained an 'entire agreement' clause saying the terms in the letter superseded any representations or promises made to him previously
For two years he was awarded a discretionary bonus of 1 per cent. He then learned that colleagues had been awarded 8 per cent and 11 per cent. He claimed his employer had breached his terms of employment by:
- Paying him only a 1 per cent bonus when he had been led to believe he would get more
- Failing to treat him comparably with other employees when awarding discretionary bonuses
The High Court ruled that the entire agreement clause did exactly what it said, and superseded any representations made during the employee's recruitment process.
It also found that it was reasonable for the bonuses awarded to his colleagues to be higher as they had been employed for longer, and higher bonuses were an incentive not to look for another job.
Employers should ensure:
- No promises or representations are made when recruiting (or interviewing for promotion) unless they will be kept later
- Contracts of employment contain 'entire agreement' clauses saying the contract constitutes the entire agreement between the parties, and that the employee should not rely on any promises or representations previously made
- They can justify apparent inconsistencies between employees when deciding on discretionary bonuses
Case law: Paturel v DB Services (UK) Ltd  EWHC 3659
Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.
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