UK firms face possible legal claims from overseas employees

TOUR operators have been warned they face an increased risk of legal claims from overseas staff following clarification of both unfair dismissal and discrimination laws.

Employees of UK companies working abroad can now claim unfair dismissal under UK law after the Court of Appeal upheld a constructive dismissal claim from a security officer working for Serco on the remote island of Ascension in the South Atlantic.

The ruling, which covered staff posted abroad for the purposes of the UK business, means tour operators could be liable for a raft of claims, according to ASB Law partner and head of employment law Rebecca Thornley-Gibson.

Speaking at the annual ASB Law seminar in London last week, Thornley-Gibson said for a claim to be brought the “connection between the employment relationship and Great Britain must be stronger than with the host nation”.

Meanwhile, discrimination laws – covering sex, religion, age and disability – have been amended to allow overseas staff to bring claims in the UK.

Claims can be made if the employee applied for the overseas job while resident in the UK, or became a resident while in employment.

Thornley-Gibson also warned employers face problems when age discrimination is integrated into UK law in October.

She said there are a number of areas employers will have
to look out for, including age limits and experience in recruitment advertising.

However, she said retirement issues would cause employers the greatest headache.

Under the new law, employers will have to inform staff approaching retirement of their leaving date between six and 12 months in advance.

Thornley-Gibson warned delegates: “You should put systems in place to send out letters automatically or you will end up missing some people.”

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