FORCED LABOUR: THE WAR HORSE CASE
LUKE HUTCHINGS >
In a very interesting case heard recently, the High Court refused to “force” an employer to see out employment contracts for workers it had dismissed.
In Ashworth -v- Royal National Theatre a number of professional musicians who were engaged to perform during showings of the celebrated play “War Horse” were unceremoniously dismissed by the employer, and their live efforts were replaced with recorded music.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the decision to dismiss, the usual next step, if fairness was an issue, would be for an employee to sue in damages (usually including lost earnings flowing from the arguably unfair decision to dismiss).
There are however other possibilities in the High Court, which include the making of an injunction literally compelling a party to do something. In this case, Mr Ashworth had petitioned the High Court to force the National Theatre to see out the terms of his contract.
The Court refused. Asking for an injunction to be granted is a serious step, and the Court will only consider making an injunction where it can be shown that damages are simply not an adequate remedy. I would comment that a money judgment at least does not require two very aggrieved parties to have to get along in a workplace setting!
This decision reaffirms a policy which the Court has adopted for quite some time. It simply will not enforce an employment contract, in part due to its very personal nature, when damages or compensation will suffice.
For more information on the above topic or any other, please feel free to contact me. One of the employment specialists at Taylor Rose Law LLP would be happy to discuss this with you further. Call us on 01733 333 333 for a no-obligation chat.
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