Expats working overseas for British companies may take claims before UK employment tribunals following a landmark ruling.
Lawyers claim the case could mean thousands more employees scattered around the world working for British-based firms gain protection from employment laws in the UK.
Until the case went before a tribunal, the general rule was where a place of work is located determines if UK employment law applies.
For workers in the UK, this meant complaints under employment and equality laws could go to a tribunal, while claims from expat workers were automatically dismissed.
But teacher centre manager David Jeffrey argued a claim of unfair dismissal against the British Council, who he worked for in Bangladesh.
His case was dismissed by an employment tribunal as he worked overseas, but Jeffrey took his case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal and won.
The tribunal decided he had a stronger link with the UK and British employment law than that of any other country.
The lower tribunal was told that although the law was correctly stated, other factors that should have influenced the decision were not properly considered.
In Jeffrey’s case, the upper tribunal pointed out that:
- He was British
- Employed by a British organisation
- His employment contract clearly stated the laws of England and Wales governed the terms
- He was entitled to a civil service pension in the UK
- His salary was paid in Sterling and calculated to be compatible with a UK salary for the same job
Impact on British employers
Law firm Pitmans, who represent Jeffery, said the ruling could impact global employers as many factors established “an especially strong connection with Great Britain”.
Mark Symons, head of the firm’s employment department, said, “We are delighted the original judge’s decision was overturned and our client will get the chance to explain his claim to the tribunal in Britain which, in the circumstances, is absolutely right.
“This case does set an important legal precedent for employees working for UK organisations abroad and brings into question the need for global employers to review their current practices, contracts and policies.”
Jeffery’s claim for unfair dismissal and related issues is expected to be heard by spring 2017.