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Trans-National Remote Working and Unfair Dismissal

Certain sectors of the UK labour market are a patchwork of foreign nationals working for large trans-border concerns. Much like Liam Neeson’s character in a certain film franchise, these individuals are often possessed of a very specific set of skills which places them in high demand, making alternative arrangements to enable them to flit between countries or even work remotely from another jurisdiction altogether more common than perhaps once was.

Such unconventional work practices of course then are likely to give rise to some of the more interesting questions in relation to the Employment Tribunal’s (“ET”) jurisdiction to hear complaints. One such recent case that engaged this topic was that of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (“EAT”) matter of Lodge v Dignity & Choice in Dying.

In Lodge the question was asked as to whether an employee who returns to another jurisdiction by their own decision, in this case Australia, but who continues to work for a UK company, can bring a claim for unfair dismissal.

Mrs Lodge was an Australian national employed by both named Respondents (the other being ‘Compassion in Dying’). After an initial period of working in London her mother took ill and so Mrs Lodge returned to Australia. 

Mrs Lodged proposed that she would continue in her role as Head of Finance remotely from Australia, which was agreed and persisted from 2009 until Mrs Lodge’s eventual resignation in 2013. Mrs Lodge then sought to submit a claim for unfair dismissal and detriment on the basis of having made a protected disclosure. The Tribunal of first instance held that she could not.

The EAT overturning this decision noted that Mrs Lodge undertook her work via computer linked remote access, that a grievance previously raised while in Melbourne had been handled in London and that the Respondents had not disputed her contention that she had no right to bring a claim in Australia.

The EAT therefore concluded that Mrs Lodge’s right to bring her claim in the jurisdiction of England did not melt away merely because instead of physically working in London she carried out the same role remotely from Melbourne; in effect she was a virtual employee but still an employee nonetheless.

Conclusion

A rather modern and practical approach taken by the EAT here. Given the rise in domestic remote working and the progression of internet based communications that facilitated this, the Lodge case could well be an indication that international remote working and so litigation based upon disputes that arise in connection with such employment could very well be on the increase.

As always if I can provide you with any further assistance on queries relating to trans-national remote working or any other issue, please do not hesitate to contact me for a free consultation on 0113 350 4030 or samira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk


Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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