Many thanks for your patience. Workplace bonuses can, in their nature, overlap in the way they become payable, which can create some difficulties. For example, they could be contractual with discretionary eligibility, contractual with guaranteed eligibility, discretionary with discretionary eligibility or discretionary with guaranteed eligibility. So in many ways it can a bit of a grey area but I will explain the main principles below:
1. Contractual bonuses
This is where the employee’s participation in a bonus scheme is guaranteed, although it would not automatically mean they are also eligible for receiving payment under it. It could be a guarantee of participation under their contract, a specific policy or even verbal promises but where their eligibility would depend on meeting performance criteria over a period of time.
If the eligibility to a bonus is based on performance criteria, this could be subjective, objective or both. Subjective criteria would be where an employer is required to form an opinion of an employee's performance. If they do so they must do it in good faith and be fair. Objective criteria would usually be determined by qualitative data. Assuming the performance conditions have been met, an employer will rarely be able to refuse payment of the bonus as doing so would be acting in bad faith and considered unfair.
2. Non-contractual/Discretionary bonuses
These are where there is no automatic right to a bonus, but where payments may be made entirely at the employer's discretion and on their own terms. The key aim is to avoid placing the employer under any obligation to implement a bonus scheme or make any bonus payments. A scheme where the employer has total discretion on whether to pay a bonus or not could be difficult to challenge. However, less stringent schemes where the employer may only have partial discretion or still form an opinion on eligibility or base it on performance could potentially be challenged under the fairness arguments mentioned above.
It follows that even though a bonus clause may be described as being at the employer's discretion, there are circumstances, mainly in performance-based eligibility, where this discretion is removed and the bonus would automatically become payable if the eligibility criteria have been met.
In your case, you can argue that you can go by the published criteria, rather than any changes they had made AFTER the event. It would otherwise be too easy for employers to retrospectively change the payment criteria and always manage to get out of paying.
Does this answer your query?