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Man who worked in Libya was employed in UK, Supreme Court says

13 February 2012

An accounts manager who worked in Libya, and whose manager was based in Cairo, was employed in the UK and could claim unfair dismissal, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Ismail Ravat, an accounts manager, worked for a subsidiary of Halliburton based near Aberdeen, which provided tools, services and personnel to the oil industry.

Ravat worked for 28 consecutive days in Libya, and then had 28 days to himself which he spent at home in Preston, in what was effectively a job share arrangement. He was described by Halliburton as a ‘UK commuter’.

Giving the leading judgment in Ravat v Halliburton Manufacturing and Services [2012] UKSC 1, Lord Hope said case law had established that section 94(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 must have some territorial limits, but, in an age of increasing labour mobility, the problem remained.

Lord Hope said: “It is true that at the time of his dismissal the respondent was working in Libya and that the operations that were being conducted there and in which he worked were those of a different Halliburton associated company, which was incorporated and based in Germany.

“It is true also that the decision to dismiss him was taken by Mr Strachan who was based in Cairo. But I would not attach as much importance to these details as I would have done if the company for which the respondent was working in Libya was not another associated Halliburton company.

“The vehicles which a multinational corporation uses to conduct its business across international boundaries depend on a variety of factors which may deflect attention from the reality of the situation in which the employee finds himself.”

Lord Hope said “all the other factors pointed towards Great Britain as the place with which, in comparison with any other, the respondent’s employment had the closer connection”.

He said the employer’s business was based in Great Britain. It chose to treat Ravat as a commuter, with a rotational working pattern familiar to workers elsewhere in the oil industry.

Lord Hope said this meant that all the benefits for which Ravat would have been eligible had he been working in Great Britain were preserved.

He said the reassurance given to the respondent by the appellant about the availability to him of UK employment law was relevant, as was the fact his home was in Britain.

“It is true that his place of work was in Libya and not in Preston. But the fact that his home was in Great Britain cannot be dismissed as irrelevant.

“It was the reason why he was given the status of a commuter, with all the benefits that were attached to it which, as he made clear, he did not want to be prejudiced by his assignment.

“Here too the fact that his home was in Preston fits in to a pattern which had a very real bearing on the parties’ employment relationship.”

An employment tribunal sitting in Aberdeen held that it did have jurisdiction to hear Ravat’s unfair dismissal claim. The decision was set aside by the EAT, but he appealed successfully to the Inner House of the Court of Session.

Lord Hope dismissed Halliburton’s appeal and remitted the case to the employment tribunal. Lady Hale and Lords Brown, Mance and Kerr agreed.

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Contracts & Rights Termination