Bishop v Financial Times, Employment Appeal Tribunal [25 November 2003]

The right to claim?: Bishop began work for the FT in London, and was subsequently promoted to work in its San Francisco office. Following his dismissal, Bishop lodged a tribunal complaint claiming unfair dismissal.

The FT argued that as Bishop had been employed and dismissed in the US, the tribunal did not have jurisdiction to hear the complaint. The tribunal disagreed, and held that it did have jurisdiction, but the FT successfully appealed.

It was generally accepted that the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) could not have been intended to provide rights on an unlimited extra-territorial basis. The issue of the territorial application of ERA to cases of unfair dismissal had been regulated by s196, which limited the Act’s operation to staff who ordinarily worked in the UK. But this provision was repealed in 1999.

In the EAT’s opinion, the repeal could not mean that staff whose employment had a “substantial connection” with the UK should not be entitled to the rights conferred by ERA, and the ability to assert those rights against their employer. Tribunals should consider each case on its own facts to decide whether there was a substantial connection with the UK.  The case was sent back to be reheard by another tribunal.

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