EAT increases scope of claims made by overseas workers

United Kingdom

In Bleuse v MBT Transport Ltd, the EAT allowed a German lorry driver, who lived in Germany but was employed by an English company, to pursue claims for holiday pay under the Working Time Regulations, but not claims for unfair dismissal and deductions from wages. They allowed the Working Time Regulations to proceed, because that right is derived from an EU directive. Unfair dismissal and deductions from wages are, however, purely 'home grown' rights, so the EAT followed the Serco case and disallowed them.

This decision has implications for all statutory rights based on European legislation. The EAT cast doubt on its own previous decisions that only employees based in the UK could bring claims under, for example, the Disability Discrimination Act and the Fixed Term Workers regulations, since these arguments had not been raised in those cases. This principle could also extend to claims for discrimination based on race, sex, age, sexual orientation or religious belief, claims for equal pay or even claims relating to collective redundancies. In approaching each piece of legislation, tribunals will need to ask:

  1. whether the European legislation is sufficiently clear and precise to be capable of having direct effect;
  2. in the case of a private employer, whether the UK statute is capable of being interpreted harmoniously with the European legislation.

British employers with employees working abroad will find this case of concern as it enlarges the scope of claims which may now be made by overseas workers against them.

Co-authors Simon Jeffreys and Anthony Fincham of CMS Cameron McKenna and Naomi Ling of Outer Temple Chambers who was the Barrister for Bleuse. Please find below contact details for Simon Jeffreys and Anthony Fincham. Naomi Ling can be contacted at [email protected]