The claimant in Shevlin v Innotech Advisers Ltd had worked for many years as a part-time personal secretary to an elderly lady. She was paid by a family company. When she was made redundant she brought an unfair dismissal claim, alleging that her redundancy dismissal was in breach of a contractual commitment, made during earlier discussions about the arrangements in the event of her employer's death, that she would be continue to be employed for her employer's lifetime plus six months.
The Tribunal and EAT rejected the claim. The general principle is that the right not to be unfairly dismissed is separate from rights under a contract of employment. In some cases, the contractual position might be relevant to the question of the fairness of a dismissal. An obvious example is where an employee is dismissed for refusal to obey an instruction; a less clear-cut one is an employee dismissed on capability grounds in breach of a contractual right to be kept on in employment whilst on sick leave – what the employment contract says is potentially relevant in that case too.
Here, there was no link between the contractual terms and the fairness of the dismissal. The claimant was not arguing that her employers had contractually committed not to make her redundant; her claim was that they had acted in breach of contract in dismissing her before the period in question had expired. That was a timing issue, not a question of the fairness of the dismissal for redundancy.