Start Date Not Brought Forward By Attending Client Meeting

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Posted on 13 May 2013

An employee’s start date was not brought forward by virtue of her having attended a client meeting at the employer’s request before the date specified as the start date in the contract. 

In Koenig v Mind Gym Ltd, K entered into an employment contract in August 2009 which stated that her employment and continuous employment would start on 1 October 2009.  On 30 September 2009 she attended a client meeting having been asked to do so by the employer.  She was told that it would benefit her, the client and the employer’s project if she attended.  On 29 September 2010 she was dismissed.  She claimed unfair dismissal but only had one year’s service if her employment began on 30 September, the day of the client meeting.

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, an employee’s continuous service begins with the date on which they start work.   The employment tribunal ruled that K had not started work under her contract on 29 September 2009. Her attendance at the client meeting did not amount to an implied variation of her contract. The employer regularly sent those who were not actually employees to observe client meetings, K had not been paid for attendance, had not been required to attend and her presence was not essential.  K appealed to the EAT.

The EAT upheld the tribunal’s decision.  The question of when work starts under a contract is one of fact to be determined on a common sense basis.  Any activity undertaken must be evaluated to see whether it was done under the employment contract and therefore whether it gives grounds for concluding that the start date has been brought forward from the date stated in the contract.

It is common practice for new recruits to be invited to attend training sessions or client meetings.  This case demonstrates that voluntary attendance at such events is unlikely to bring their start date forward, particularly where there is no obligation to attend and no payment for attending. The position may be different if significant activity is performed for the employer’s benefit in anticipation of being in employment, but it will always be a question of fact and degree. 

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