What is meant by custom and practice?

Some terms may be implied through custom and practice in a particular trade or with a particular employer.

For example, it may become customary (over a period of time) to leave early on a Friday, or to add an extra day to a Bank Holiday. In order for an entitlement to become established by custom and practice, it must be long-standing, uninterrupted, automatically received, expected and well-known.

It is not enough to show that something has happened for a particular length of time. Instead, an outside observer, looking at the behaviour of the employees and the employer, must be able to conclude that both parties must have intended their practice to be a contractual right or obligation, with legal force. This is very difficult to establish.

Sometimes the idea of custom and practice is used to interpret an express term, for example, working out what is meant by 'reasonable overtime'.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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