In Bateman and others v Asda Stores Ltd, the EAT upheld a tribunal decision that Asda was entitled to rely upon a statement in its employee handbook reserving the right to vary contractual terms in order to introduce new pay terms, without the need to obtain the employees’ express consent.

After extensive consultation, most of Asda’s staff voluntarily moved onto a proposed new pay regime. The remaining staff were then transferred involuntarily to the new regime under a provision in the staff handbook allowing Asda to “review, revise, amend or replace” the contents of the handbook, some sections of which were contractual, and introduce new polices to “reflect the changing needs of the business”. B and around 700 others claimed, among other things, that they had suffered unauthorised deductions from wages in breach of Section 13 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 as a result of being transferred to the new pay regime without agreement.

The decision is useful for employers wishing to make changes to working practices to reflect the changing needs of their business, but it is signifi cant that the employees had not argued that Asda’s unilateral variation of contract was a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confi dence at tribunal level and so were unable to do so before the EAT.

Bateman and others v Asda Stores Ltd