A landmark ruling made by a tribunal last week will mean staff working in
the UK on foreign contracts are protected under British employment law. The
tribunal in London judged that four flight attendants employed by US firm
United Airlines, who had claimed they were denied the most basic of maternity
rights, were subject to UK law.
The flight attendants, who lived in London and worked out of Heathrow, were
suspended when they became pregnant after they refused to work long-distance
flights on their doctors’ advice. United Airlines argued that under US law it
could lay them off when they reached 31 weeks of pregnancy after they had used
up their sick leave entitlement.
But the women said they should be treated under British law and claimed they
had been sexually discriminated against.
Barry Clarke, of Russell Jones & Walker, who represented the women, said
the tribunal took the view that the employment relationship as a whole was much
more closely connected to Britain.
"This will have a major impact on a number of employees working in
different sectors. As a result of developments in European legislation, UK law
has recently been amended," he said.
"This case is the first to reflect the changes to the law. It confirms
that it is much more difficult for an employer to avoid the implications of
British employment law."