Can an unjust enrichment claim for a quantum meruit be brought under Part II of the Employment Rights Act 1996?
No, held the EAT in Abellio East Midlands Ltd v Thomas.
The Claimant, who was employed by Abellio as Area Manager for Leicester, agreed to move to a new position as Area Manager for Nottingham and was told that he would receive an increased salary to reflect the greater responsibilities in that role. The Claimant and Respondent failed to agree the increased salary and his employment was eventually terminated. The tribunal decided that the Claimant was entitled to a remedy in unjust enrichment, a quantum meruit payment, for the work he did in the "entirely different" position in Nottingham. It decided that he should have been paid an increased salary while in that position, and such a claim could be brought as an unlawful deduction from wages claim under Part II of the ERA.
Not so said the EAT. An unjust enrichment claim for a quantum meruit could not be brought under Part II of the ERA. Following Delaney v Staples, the essential characteristics of 'wages' for the purpose of Part II are that they are work done or to be done under a subsisting contract of employment. But where an individual was engaged under a worker's contract, and so could potentially bring a claim under Part II, a quantum meruit could only be brought in respect of additional work which went beyond the scope of the existing contract. Moreover, claims for quantum meruit would with difficulty fit with the structure of a claim for unlawful deductions from wages. The Respondent's appeal was therefore allowed.
Thanks to Dr John McMullen of Spencer West LLP for preparing this case summary.