Employee working in Libya entitled to claim under Unfair Dismissal
The Supreme Court has today handed down its Judgement in the long running case of Ravat v Halliburton Manufacturing & Services Ltd. Its unanimous decision is that Mr Ravat is entitled to pursue a claim of unfair dismissal against his former employer in the Aberdeen Employment Tribunal.
The most important facts of the case are that Mr Ravat lived in Preston, was employed to work in Libya by a UK registered company operating in Aberdeen, and whilst in Libya he would be working for another company within the Halliburton Group. He was employed on a “commuter” contract under which he worked in Libya on a 28 day rotation. During his 28 days off, he returned to live in the UK.
In agreeing to the Libya assignment, Mr Ravat had been reassured by his employer that he would continue to be protected under UK law. Whilst he had little day to day contact with the Aberdeen office, as his reporting lines were based in Libya and Egypt, he had contact with the Aberdeen office on HR issues. All redundancy and grievance hearings were held in the Aberdeen office. His salary was paid into a UK bank account under deduction through PAYE of income tax and national insurance and his travel costs were borne by his employer.
On the basis of these factual circumstances, the Supreme Court found that Mr Ravat’s employment relationship had a “sufficiently strong” connection with the UK and as such he was entitled to benefit from the protections of UK employment law. Whilst none of these factors alone were found to be determinative, the Court made specific reference to any assurances given by the employer and the way in which the employment relationship was in practice handled.
Prior to this decision, the application of UK employment law to individuals working outside the UK was a very grey area. The test that Claimants’ had to meet in order to be able to pursue a claim under the Employment Rights Act 1996 was unclear: did they have to establish that they were peripatetic, expatriate or something else?
This decision clearly establishes that the starting point is that “the employment relationship must have a stronger connection with Great Britain than with the foreign country where the employee works.” This connection must be “sufficiently strong” to create the presumption that although they were working overseas, Parliament intended for them, in the particular circumstances, to be protected under the Act thus entitled to pursue a claim in the UK.”