January 30, 2015

Employee Based in Australia Covered by UK Employment Rights

In Lodge v Dignity and Choice in Dying & Anor UKEAT/0252/14/LA, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) considered whether an employee who had voluntarily relocated to Australia but continued to work remotely for her UK-based employer was able to bring employment claims in the UK Employment Tribunal.

Mrs Lodge, an Australian national, was the Head of Finance for a UK-based not-for-profit organisation.  After being based in the UK for over 10 years, she relocated to Australia in 2009 for family reasons but continued working remotely for the same employer using its virtual private network.  She then resigned and brought unfair dismissal and whistleblowing claims in the UK Employment Tribunal.  A preliminary issue arose as to whether the UK Employment Tribunal had jurisdiction to hear these claims.  The EAT held it had because Mrs Lodge’s employment had a sufficiently strong connection with the UK to entitle her to be protected by UK employment law.   She did not lose this protection because she worked as a virtual employee from Australia, rather than as a physical employee in the UK.  It was also irrelevant that she had relocated to Australia out of choice, and not been posted there.

While each case will turn on its facts, employers should be aware that employees based abroad who work remotely for the benefit of a UK-based business are likely to be protected by UK employment law.

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