Ravat v Halliburton – unfair dismissal, jurisdiction and employee status
The facts in Ravat v Halliburton
Mr Ravat (“the Claimant”) was employed by Halliburton Manufacturing and Services Ltd (“the Respondent”) from April 1990 to May 2006 as an accounts manager. He lives in England and is a British citizen. He was dismissed in 2006 for the reason of redundancy.
Mr Ravat’s contract of employment described him as a “UK commuter”. This was the case in practice – he worked 28 days “on” in Libya and 28 days “off” back in Preston. He was not an expatriate. His salary was paid into a UK bank account and he paid income tax and national insurance on a PAYE basis. He was assured that his contract of employment would be covered by UK employment law.
Mr Ravat sought to bring a claim for unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal. An Employment Tribunal sitting in Aberdeen found that the Employment Tribunal did have jurisdiction. The Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the claim was not within the relevant employment law jurisdiction.
The law relating to jurisdiction for employment law claims
The jurisdiction of Employment Tribunals to hear case of unfair dismissal was originally contained in s.196 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 but the section was repealed in 1999, thus leaving it for the courts to determine the territorial jurisdiction of unfair dismissal claims.
In the leading case on this issue, Lawson v Serco Ltd, the House of Lords (as the Supreme Court was then known) held that the Claimants could be divided into 3 categories:
- Standard cases – was the Claimant working in Great Britain? Attention must be paid to both the contract of employment and what happens in practice
- Peripatetic employees – if the Claimant is more of a “nomad” the facts of the case must be looked at to determine whether the Employment Tribunal has jurisdiction
- 3. Expatriate employees – where the employee is an expat the employee must generally rely on the law where they’re working, unless they’re posted abroad for the purpose of a business carried on in Great Britain or where the expat is working in an extra-territorial enclave in a foreign country
The relevant questions that must be asked are there:
- Does the Claimant work wholly in Great Britain?
- If the Claimant only works and lives part of the part of the time in Great Britain, do the facts of the case suggest that the Claimant was working in Great Britain or otherwise? (look at where the employee lives, what the situation is relating to tax etc.)
- If the employee works and lives wholly abroad then does either of the above exceptions apply?
The Supreme Court’s judgment in Ravat v Halliburton
The Supreme Court rejected the Respondent’s argument that the courts of England and Wales did not have jurisdiction for the Claimant’s claim and remitted the case to the Employment Tribunal to deal with the merits of the claim for unfair dismissal by reason of redundancy.
The Supreme Court determined that the employment relationship had a stronger connection with Great Britain than the country where the Claimant was based as the Claimant had his home in Great Britain, the Respondent’s business was based in Great Britain, and the Claimant was described as a commuter. Further, the Claimant had been assured by the Respondent that UK employment law would apply to his contract of employment (although the Court recognised that it was not open to parties to contract into a particular jurisdiction).
Our thoughts on Ravat v Halliburton
This is an interesting claim relating to the jurisdiction of the Employment Tribunal. The decisive fact in this case (as well as the issues relating to residence, payment of tax etc.) appears to have been the Respondent’s assurance to the Claimant that his employment would be covered by UK employment law rather than Libyan law.