UK law protects staff with foreign contracts in landmark ruling

A landmark employment tribunal
ruled last week that employees working in Britain on foreign contracts are
protected under UK employment law.

The tribunal in London judged
that four flight attendants employed by 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 medical 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 argued
successfully that they should be treated under British law and claimed they
were 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 is a groundbreaking
case that 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.

"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.

"Even those who spend only
a very small percentage of their working time in the UK will now be able to
present discrimination claims in the UK," said Clarke.

By Ben Willmott

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