Two recent appeals in the part-time pensions litigation have looked at the effect of variations to the contract of employment on the six months' time limit for equal pay claims, which runs from the date the relevant contract ends. In these appeals, which were not "stable" employment cases, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) had to distinguish between variations which brought the original contract to an end and replaced it with a new one, and those which kept the original contract of employment alive. They illustrate the importance of scrutinising the entire employment history in order to assess whether these claims are in time.

In Winder and Campbell v Aston University the two employees had contrasting fortunes. In the case of Mrs Campbell, who slowly moved from inputting data using punch cards to the role of a secretary, the EAT upheld the employment tribunal's decision that this was a contract of employment which had evolved through a series of gradual changes. In the case of Mrs Winder, it decided that a new contract had been created when she moved from the post of part-time secretary to a job as research secretary on a higher scale, following an interview.

In Dow and others v Cumbria County Council around 1,500 employees were involved, some of whom had been issued a document headed "contract of employment" setting out changes to conditions, including hours of work and post, and confirming that it replaced the previous terms and conditions. The EAT ruled that there was a crucial distinction between those employees who had signed the new document - thus signifying their agreement to the ending of their old contract of employment - and those who had not. The latter group had thereby kept their original contact of employment alive, providing that the changes involved were not so radical that the contract should be regarded as coming to an end anyway.

For the Winder case click here and for the Dow case click here