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ISS Mediclean Ltd v Elesina - Interpretation of employment contract [2012] EAT

Interpretation of a contract of employment is an objective exercise, and should be based on what a reasonable person, in possession of the background facts, would have understood the contract to mean.  

Mrs Elesina worked as a catering assistant for ISS Mediclean, a company which provided facility services to hospitals throughout the UK. She claimed that she had not been paid enhanced rates for more than 250 unsocial hours worked over a 13 week period. Mrs Elisina’s contract incorporated the provisions of a handbook which made mention of “Agenda for Change” (AfC) in its title. The NHS introduced AfC in 2004 to streamline pay scales for all non medical staff, and third party contractors were encouraged to also follow this. In 2007 the relevant unions and ISS agreed a process by which this best practise could apply; all NHS Trusts had the relevant funding from the Government, but this funding had to be made available to ISS before the AfC or any new contract terms could be agreed with its employees.

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