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Where does the Employment Tribunal have territorial jurisdiction?

Learn about the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s (EAT) decision in Yacht Management Company Ltd v Ms G, affirming territorial jurisdiction for seafarers’ employment claims despite the absence of UK business operations. Understand the factors considered by the tribunal to establish a sufficient connection to British employment law, highlighting the significance of a seafarer’s ‘base’ in determining employment jurisdiction.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has upheld an employment tribunal’s decision that it has territorial jurisdiction to hear claims brought by a seafarer, despite the fact that the seafarer’s employer did not carry out any business in the UK, and that she worked on a vessel that did not enter a UK port or UK waters at any time during her employment.

In Yacht Management Company Ltd v Ms G, the claimant was employed by Yacht Management Company Ltd (YMC Ltd) from 25 March 2019, until she was dismissed in October 2021, purportedly by reason of redundancy.

Following her dismissal, the claimant brought various claims against YMC Ltd in the Employment Tribunal (ET). YMC Ltd sought to have the claimant’s claim struck out on the basis that the ET did not have territorial jurisdiction to hear it. In order for seafarers to be able to rely on British statutory employment rights, there must be ‘sufficient connection’ between the circumstances of the seafarer’s employment and British employment law.

In this case, YMC Ltd was registered in Guernsey, did not carry out any business in the UK, did not have any place of business or any berths within the UK, and the vessel on which the claimant worked never entered a UK port or UK territorial waters.

However, despite these factors, the EAT upheld the tribunal’s finding that there were ample facts to support its conclusion that there was a sufficient connection between the claimant’s employment and British employment law. The factors included the location of the bank account into which the claimant’s salary was paid (Great Britain); the fact that she accounted to HMRC for tax; the governing law of the contract, which was expressed to be England and Wales; and, importantly, the fact that the tribunal concluded that the claimant’s duties began and ended in Great Britain.

This ruling underlines the importance of the longstanding principle that a seafarer’s ‘base’ (being the place where they begin and end a ‘tour of duty’) should be treated as their place of employment, not the location of the ship on which they work.

The claimant’s duties began and ended in Aberdeen, this being the place where she commenced her various journeys to join the vessel and to which she returned after her tours of duty.

Source: Lexology

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