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Breach of contract against a third party

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Can a Claimant rely upon Article 3 of the Employment Tribunals Extension of Jurisdiction (England and Wales) Order 1994 to bring a breach of contract claim in the employment tribunal against a party other than their employer?

No, held the EAT in Oni v Unison.

In 2016 the Claimant issued a breach of contract claim in the tribunal alleging that the Respondent had breached the terms of her union membership agreement. The claim was struck out on the basis that the tribunal’s jurisdiction was limited to contract claims against the Claimant’s employer.

The Claimant appealed, contending that the words "other contract connected with employment" in s3(2) of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996 extended jurisdiction under Article 3 of the 1994 Order to claims against non-employer respondents, and that her union membership contract fell within that definition. The Claimant derived support from Article 8(c)(i) which refers to "the employer (or other person who is the respondent party to the employee’s contract claim)".

Soole J held that the wording of the Order had to be considered as a whole. While Article 8(c)(i) was supportive of the Claimant’s interpretation, the wording of other provisions of the Order and the enabling Act supported the conclusion that only contract claims against an employer could be brought under Article 3.

[Thanks to Jonathan Cook, pupil barrister at Cloisters Chambers, for preparing this case summary.]