18 March 2021

What does it all mean? When workplace terms and conditions can be read more than one way – an interpretation misadventure!

Plain and simple words in an award or enterprise agreement are often read quite differently by an employer, employee or union. What those words actually mean in practice sometimes becomes the focus of a dispute about pay and entitlements. A lot can turn on the outcome for the parties.

Finding the meaning of the contested provision then falls to a court or tribunal applying the laws of interpretation. Cases have been fought and lost over stray commas, words with layers of meaning, poor grammar or ambiguous word choice or sentence arrangement.

Despite recent efforts to redraft instruments in plain English, complications can and often do arise. It’s not just because it is now a lot easier to cut and paste text from one form to another, but the English language itself is constantly transforming in both every-day and industry usage. Uncertainty can also arise as the product of compromise in agreement making. Each party may welcome ambiguity, so as to encourage each other to sign up on their own interpretation of a workplace agreement clause, the meaning of which may be argued later. 

In this webinar, we will explore the key principles of interpretation, with some real life examples from recent cases we have run for clients and other famous case examples. This webinar is an essential for all in HR and IR.