Locally appointed employee at British embassy in Egypt not protected by UK employment law


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The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has held in Hamam v Foreign and Commonwealth Office that a locally recruited employee at a British Embassy in Egypt was not protected by UK employment law.

Ms Hamam, an Egyptian citizen, was recruited to work for the British Embassy in Cairo.  When her employment was terminated she brought employment tribunal claims in Great Britain for discrimination, victimisation, unfair dismissal and whistleblowing detriment.  The Employment Judge held that the tribunal did not have jurisdiction to hear her claims as her employment was not sufficiently connected to Great Britain.  Ms Hamam appealed the decision arguing that the tribunal had not given sufficient weight to the argument that the Embassy was a "British enclave", in line with one of the examples given by Lord Hoffman in the case of Lawson v Serco (where it was found that sometimes "the territorial pull of the place of work" can be overcome where there is a "sufficient connection" of the employment to Great Britain and British employment law).

The EAT dismissed the appeal holding, amongst other things, that not everyone who works in a British enclave can necessarily bring themselves within the jurisdiction of British employment law.  It noted that in none of the previous case law on this issue had a locally employed individual succeeded in bringing themselves in scope of a "British enclave".  The EAT highlighted that the job of the employment judge had been to look at the nature of the British Embassy and to take it into account as one of the factors relevant to the question of whether a person working abroad has a "sufficient connection" with Britain and British employment law.

Take note: Following the decision in Hamam it is clear that various different factors have to be taken into account when deciding whether a tribunal has the territorial jurisdiction to consider the employment claims of an employee working abroad.  Generally the existence of a "British enclave" will only apply to someone posted to the enclave from the UK and will not be able to be relied on by someone recruited locally.
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