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Pay Deductions on Strike Days – Court of Appeal Rules

In a decision which will be required reading for employers, trade unions and their members, the Court of Appeal has ruled on the thorny issue of exactly how much pay can be withheld from workers when they go on strike.

Three teachers argued that the amount of pay referable to a day on which they were on strike should be calculated as 1/365 of their annual salary. Their employer said that the correct fraction was 1/260, on the basis that that was the number of week days in each year. The sums of money at stake were small but, if the teachers won, the cost to the education sector as a whole would be £300,000 per strike day.

The employer’s arguments were upheld by a judge; however, the teachers appealed. The issue hinged on the terms of their contracts and the correct interpretation of the Apportionment Act 1870, which established the principle that monies are apportioned on the basis that payments accrue daily.

The Court accepted that, in principle, the Act applied to the teachers’ contracts. In dismissing their appeals, however, it rejected arguments that, by operation of the Act, their pay accrued at an even rate from day to day. The terms of their contracts in any event excluded any assumption that their pay accrued by equal amounts on each of the 365 days of the year.