By a majority, the House of Lords held:
- upholding the Court of Appeal, that reg. 2(3)(f) of the Part Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000, which has a residual category when distinguishing what is (or is not) the 'same type of contract', should not be read in an over-precise way which allows employers, by setting different terms for part-time workers, to take themselves outside the scope of the Regulations
- overturning the Court of Appeal, that when deciding whether work is of the "same or broadly similar" under reg. 2(4), tribunals should look at the similarities in the work, rather than at the differences in the work.
The minority (Lords Cardswell and Mance) thought that the latter point amounted to dancing on the head of a pin (my words, not theirs!). However, it enabled the majority of the House of Lords (Baroness Hale, and Lords Nicholls and Hope) to overturn what they perceived as an unjust decision and allow the retained firefighters (subject to further findings of fact) to claim equality with full-time firefighters.
Matthews & ors v Kent & Medway Fire Towns and Fire Authority & ors