UK Clarifies Legal Position for Expats Working Remotely

by Ray Clancy on February 12, 2015

For expats their legal status can be a minefield and it can be unclear which tax regime they are under, but now a British legal case has highlighted the issue of employment law.

The UK’s Employment Appeal Tribunal has decided that an Australian working remotely from Australia for a British company was entitled to bring an unfair dismissal claim against her British employer.

She lived and worked in London before moving back to Australia for family reasons and had an English employment contract which meant she worked remotely using a virtual private network that was installed on her laptop.

UK London

A British legal case has highlighted the issue of employment law

When she resigned she brought claims for unfair constructive dismissal and whistleblowing against her employer in the UK and initially the Employment Tribunal ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.

Lawyers argued that the woman was not an expat employee since she was not sent abroad for her job and had moved to Australia out of choice. The tribunal decided that she had ‘voluntarily’ taken herself outside of its jurisdiction.

However, the woman decided to appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal which decided that she did come under the UK’s jurisdiction because all her work was for the benefit of her employer in the UK.

The ETA ruled that the fact that her employer allowed her to work remotely from Australia made her situation no different from that of an employee who was posted to work abroad by an employer and she was classed as an expat worker.

Legal experts say that the ruling is significant as remote working means that there can be grey areas when it comes to deciding which jurisdiction an ‘expat’ comes under.

A spokesman for the ETA said that the key question is whether the employee’s connection with the UK is sufficiently strong that Parliament intended for a UK Employment Tribunal to deal with any claim that might arise.

The EAT has made it clear that if these employees are working for the benefit of their UK employer, as opposed to a foreign subsidiary, then they will not lose their right to bring claims under UK employment law, even where they are abroad.

 

 

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