The question of whether an individual who is employed by a British employer but lives and works abroad can bring employment claims under British employment legislation has been recently considered by the Court of Appeal in the case of The British Council -v- David Jeffery .
Mr Jeffery was employed by the British Council but lived and worked in Bangladesh where he ran an English language teaching centre.
Following his resignation which concerned the proposed closing of the teaching centre, Mr Jeffery brought proceedings against the British Council in the Employment Tribunal in London complaining of unfair dismissal, whistleblower detriment and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief. Pitmans was instructed to act on behalf of Mr Jeffery in this matter. As part of its defence the British Council argued that the London Employment Tribunal had no jurisdiction to entertain Mr Jeffery’s claims because he was working outside the UK.
In general terms, an individual who lives and works in a particular foreign country, even if they are British and employed by a British company, will be subject to the relevant employment law provisions of that particular country rather than English law unless their case is exceptional and there are specifically strong factors to indicate that their employment is sufficiently connected with Great Britain.
The Court of Appeal concluded that there were enough factors in Mr Jeffery’s case to sufficiently connect his employment with Great Britain including the fact that Mr Jeffery’s contract of employment was governed by the laws of England and Wales and his salary was payable in sterling. He was entitled to membership of the Civil Service Pension Scheme and his employment was pensionable.
The court held that, when considering where an individual’s employment is sufficiently connected with Great Britain, an Employment Tribunal judge must carry out a “comparative exercise” and consider the factors connecting the employment with Great Britain against the factors connecting the employment with the country the employee is actually working in.
This case sets an important legal precedent for employees working for UK organisations abroad. It also provides clarity on factors which an Employment Tribunal will take into consideration when deciding if an individual who works in a foreign country, but is employed by a British employer, can bring an employment claim in the UK.