Antuzis and others v DJ Houghton Catching Services Ltd and others  EWHC 843
The claimants were Lithuanian workers who had come to the UK to work for DJ Houghton Catching Services Ltd as chicken catchers on farms. They brought a number of claims against their employer, the company secretary and a company director. Their claims included: they had to work extremely long hours; they were paid less than the statutory minimum agricultural wage; they were not paid the sums that were stated as being due to them on their pay slips; they were not paid overtime or holiday pay; and deductions were unlawfully made from their wages for fees and rent. A preliminary hearing took place to decide whether they could bring claims for breach of contract against a director and the company secretary.
The High Court held that the claimants could proceed against the individuals. They were both aware of their legal obligations and they were operating the company in a deliberate and systematic manner in order to avoid making the payments that were due to the workers. There was no realistic prospect of them succeeding at trial. There would be an assessment of damages hearing to decide the amount of loss suffered by the claimants.
A company director is not generally liable for inducing a breach of contract where they are acting in good faith but in this case the individuals were aware that what they were doing was against the law and they had also breached their statutory duties under the Companies Act 2006 to act in good faith to promote the success of the company. As a result, they were jointly and severally liable to the claimants for inducing breaches of contract by the company.