Subject to

“Subject to” is one of those bits of technical language that can easily cause misunderstandings for the unwary. It comes up frequently in legislation and often leads to mistakes.

A rule that is described as subject to something else, is subordinate to that thing. So, if Rule A is subject to Rule B, Rule A is subordinate to Rule B.

In other words, it will take effect, only so far as Rule B does not apply.

This is much easier to see in practice.

What is the law?

here are two sources of law in the employment tribunals. One is legislation: the law passed by Parliament. The other is case-law, some of which consists in the courts’ interpretations and explanations of legislation, and some of which is what is called ‘common law’ – law that doesn’t come from legislation at all, but has been developed over the years by the courts.

These are broad headings. They do not take into account the differences between Acts of Parliament and Regulations. Or deal with the significant role European legislation and case-law has on tribunals.

The point is that there is a lot of useful information out there that is not the law.

And / Or

A lot of legislation is in the form “Something will be true, in the following circumstances”. For example, Section 1 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 begins “…a person discriminates against a woman if-“, then goes on to describe the situations that will be Direct Sex Discrimination.

Statutes, and the law they create, are often complex and these provisions can be difficult to understand. A common mistake is confusing circumstances linked by ‘and’ with those linked by ‘or’, and vice versa.