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A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) serves as a reminder to employers with staff based overseas of the circumstances in which domestic tribunals will consider employment disputes.
In the case of Jeffery v The British Council, Mr Jeffrey was employed by the British Council (BC) to manage a teaching centre in Bangladesh. He resigned and brought various claims against BC. His claims were initially rejected by the Employment Tribunal (ET) on the grounds that they were outside its jurisdiction.
Mr Jeffrey successfully appealed to the EAT. The EAT confirmed that the ET did in fact have the jurisdiction to hear Mr Jeffrey's claims. This was because Mr Jeffrey had established an especially strong connection with Great Britain and British employment law, based on the following factors:
He was a UK citizen, recruited in the UK by a British organisation;
he was employed under a contract of employment that expressly incorporated English law;
he was entitled to a pension under the Civil Service Pension Scheme;
BC made notional deductions from the employee's salary for UK tax; and
BC was a public body having an important place in British public life.
The combination of all of these factors meant that a strong connection with Great Britain and British employment law was established. Mr Jeffrey did not have a similar link with any other legal system.
Certain employers may often recruit staff domestically and deploy them overseas. When doing so, early consideration should be given as to which legal system should regulate the employment relationship.
Generally speaking, employers based in England and Wales tend to want the knowledge that, if a dispute were to arise, it would be decided with reference to the relatively familiar domestic legal system. This may not be appropriate in every case, however, and individual advice should be sought where necessary.