UK: Supreme Court Gives Judgment In Edwards v Chesterfield

Last Updated: 20 January 2012
Article by Daniel L. Peyton and Douglas Styles

On 14 December 2011 the UK Supreme Court issued its decision in the consolidated appeals in Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Botham (FC) v Ministry of Defence [2011] UKSC 58. The issue was whether damages for future losses could be awarded arising from the unfair manner of dismissal in breach of an express term of an employment contract. If successful, this would expose employers to damages claims far in excess of the usual measure of loss, losses suffered in respect of their notice periods. Further, such a decision would enable employees to bring high-value claims for future losses outside the legislative framework designed to provide the exclusive jurisdiction for such employment claims (i.e. in particular, unfair dismissal).

The UK Supreme Court held that employees may not recover damages in civil courts for loss suffered as a result of a breach of their contract of employment in relation to the manner of their dismissal, unless the loss can be said to precede and be independent of the dismissal. The position therefore remains as it was; a qualifying employee has unfair dismissal rights through which to pursue future losses in the Employment Tribunal, limited to the cap imposed on awards by legislation. Under the common law a claimant may claim for damages, limited to damages had the contract of employment been performed lawfully (i.e. the employee's earnings during the notice period the employer should have given in order lawfully to terminate the employment and, in some cases, also during the period it would have taken an employer to follow a contractual dismissal procedure, known as the Gunton extension). See Gunton v Richmond-upon-Thames London Borough Council [1981] Ch448, [1980] All ER 577, 79 LGR 241.


Mr Edwards was subjected to disciplinary proceedings following an allegation he undertook an inappropriate examination of a female patient. A disciplinary hearing was convened and Mr Edwards was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct. Mr Edwards claimed a contractual disciplinary procedure applied to his employment with the Trust, which was breached by reason of the panel not being properly constituted. As a result of this breach, the panel made incorrect findings, which he claimed it would not have done if correctly constituted and which damaged his reputation. Mr Edwards argued that as a result of the breach, he was now highly unlikely to secure future employment within the healthcare sector. Mr Edwards issued proceedings for breach of contract in the amount of Ł3.8 million for his future losses.

The Courts' Decisions

At first instance, Mr Edwards' claim was limited to damages for his contractual notice period only. Mr Edwards sought permission to appeal, which was granted but only insofar that, subject to liability for breach of contract being established, in addition to compensation for the additional period of his contractual notice, Mr Edwards was also entitled to compensation for the additional period that it would have taken to conduct the disciplinary procedure if it were conducted and completed in a reasonable time. This is known as the Gunton extension.

In a controversial decision, the Court of Appeal determined that Mr Edwards should not be precluded from recovering damages for loss of future employment prospects. This is contrary to the case of Johnson, which determined that an employee cannot bring a claim for damages for the manner in which they are actually or constructively dismissed beyond the rights afforded by Parliament and enshrined in the legislation for unfair dismissal unless the cause of the claim for damages precedes and is unconnected with the dismissal. The Trust appealed to the UK Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court considered that the alleged breaches of the contractual disciplinary procedure, which led to the findings against Mr Edwards, did not occur independently of the dismissal, that the damages claimed were consequential on the dismissal and therefore the claim fell within what is known as the Johnson "exclusion area". See Johnson v Unisys Limited [2011] UKHL 13.

The Supreme Court hearing Edwards together with Botham decided that employees may not recover damages in civil courts for loss suffered as a result of a breach of their contract of employment in relation to the manner of their dismissal, unless the loss can be said to precede and be independent of the dismissal and accords with the reasoning given in the decision of Johnson.

The Supreme Court also decided that as Parliament has determined that the statutory unfair dismissal regime should be the means by which an employee may pursue future losses arising from their dismissal, subject to certain statutory limitations (e.g. short limitation periods, qualifying periods of employment and a cap on compensation), it was wrong for the courts to extend common law principles and enable employees to circumvent statutory requirements when pursuing claims for future losses. Therefore, the appeals in Edwards and Botham were dismissed and employees' rights to claim damages for breach of contract in connection with their dismissal were limited to rights in respect of their notice periods and the G unton extension. The decision in the Supreme Court was by a majority of four to three.


The decision in Edwards is arguably a relief for employers, as it re-establishes the status quo by determining that any award is limited in unfair dismissal to the statutory caps and under common law to the employee's notice period and any reasonable time that should have been spent carrying out a proper disciplinary/dismissal procedure.

The Court of Appeal decision in Edwards posed a real and substantial financial risk to employers as it permitted the courts to make awards of damages for future losses flowing from the manner of an employee's dismissal. Had this decision stood, employers may have faced exposure to very substantial claims for future losses where they dismissed an employee in circumstances in which a contractual disciplinary/dismissal process was not properly followed, together with satellite litigation concerning the question of whether it was a contractual procedure. Thankfully, the Supreme Court has shut those floodgates, for now.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.