UK: "European" Employment Law Applies In Europe Only

The application of UK employment law to employees working outside the UK is a big issue for multi-national companies and employers in the shipping industry. If you have an employee who works for you outside the UK, can you be sure that they are not entitled to UK employment rights?

Not always – and there has been a great deal of case law over the last few years which indicates just that. Some employees working outside the UK may have UK employment rights – international employers should remain aware of that risk to avoid surprise claims.

But which employees will have such rights? A new case this week in the Employment Appeal Tribunal ("EAT") might provide some help in answering that question, at least in relation to employment protection derived from EU law, such as discrimination claims. We take a look at Hasan v Shell International Shipping Services (PTE) Ltd, and consider if this case takes us any further in defining the true scope of UK employment law.

The general position

The question as to whether an employee working outside the UK is nevertheless entitled to UK employment protection will depend on what type of claim he is bringing.

In particular, the case of Bleuse v MTB Transport Ltd made clear that, as regards employment rights and protections which are derived from EU law, Tribunals will need to construe such provisions widely enough to give effect to that EU-derived protection to everyone who has an English law contract (even if that does not seem to strictly comply with the letter of the UK law and the employee has little or no connection to the UK). Mr Bleuse, a German national who worked for a UK company throughout Europe (but not in the UK) under an English law contract, was unable to bring claims for unfair dismissal or unlawful deduction of wages because he could not satisfy the tests set out in Lawson v Serco that is to say his employment did not have sufficient connection to the UK; his English law contract was not enough for these purposes. These two claims are 'UK-based', they are not derived from EU law. On the other hand, because his claim for holiday pay centered on EU-derived rights and his contract was governed by English law, the EAT held it was required to interpret the UK legislation in such a way as to allow this claim to proceed, without the need for any further 'sufficient connection' to the UK.

The provisions of the Equality Act 2010 (affording protection against unlawful discrimination) are, like those regarding holiday pay, derived from EU law. Following Bleuse, therefore, Tribunals will need to interpret the scope of these anti-discrimination provisions in such a way that (as far as possible) these EU-derived rights are enforced even where the employment has little or no connection to the UK other than an English law contract.

Bleuse only helped us so far, however, as it concerned a German national working for a UK company throughout Europe. The case didn't provide any clarification as to whether this interpretation requirement applied where the employee was working in a non-EU state.

Mr Hasan's particular position

Mr Hasan was a mariner. He was employed by a Singapore company, who contracted out the day-to-day management of the employment relationship to a company registered in the Isle of Man. Further, a manning agreement existed between the Singapore employer and a third company, registered and based in the UK, under which Mr Hasan's employer provided personnel to this UK company. Mr Hasan lived (when not working aboard ships) in the UK, was paid in pounds sterling, and was subject to the UK tax regime. When he was dismissed, the dismissal was confirmed in a letter from the Isle of Man company, responsible for day-to-day management of the employment relationship.

Mr Hasan brought claims for discrimination, unfair dismissal and breach of contract (in relation to unpaid notice). The key point from this case arises from the discrimination claim.

The discrimination claim

This claim related to events onboard the ship Galea, a Singapore-flagged ship which did not enter UK waters during Mr Hasan's employment.

Section 81 of the Equality Act states that the protection afforded by the Equality Act will apply to seafarers "only in such circumstances as are prescribed". The prescribed circumstances are set out in accompanying Regulations which in this case meant that, in order for Mr Hasan to qualify for anti-discrimination protection under the Equality Act, he would need to be employed on a UK registered vessel with a "registered port of choice" in Great Britain. This was clearly not the case. The Employment Tribunal found that he was not entitled to protection under the Equality Act.

Mr Hasan appealed against this finding. Part of his argument centered on the "Bleuse principle" which we have discussed above. This principle, he argued, should mean that the territorial limitation under section 81 of the Equality Act should be relaxed to allow him an effective means of exercising directly enforceable EU-derived rights (in this case protection from discrimination). He referred to the case of Dhunna v Creditsights, which concerned an employee working in Dubai seeking to enforce EU-derived employment rights under UK law (in that case regarding working time restrictions). Although the Claimant in that case was not successful, Mr Hasan's argument was that this did not mean that there was a general rule that the Bleuse principle should not apply where the Claimant was working outside the EU. He suggested that this be a point of reference to the European courts.

The EAT disagreed. Having considered numerous authorities, the EAT was satisfied that in none of these was the Bleuse principle held to apply when the acts complained of occurred outside the EU (as they had done here), and it declined to extend the principle in this case. In any event, the EAT remarked that the provisions of s.81 of the Equality Act (and the accompanying Regulations) were express, and so cannot be dis-applied by any implied interpretation of the territorial scope of the Equality Act.

Mr Hasan's discrimination claim therefore failed – the UK tribunals had no jurisdiction to hear this claim.

No extension of the Bleuse principle

This case does provide some clarity for international and shipping employers. Following this case, it will be difficult for individuals who work outside the EU to argue that EU-derived employment protection should apply to them. Having said that, however, nor did the case expressly and firmly state that the Bleuse principle could never apply in such circumstances. As case law in this area develops constantly, such employers are urged to remain vigilant to further case law developments. In the meantime, however, the risk of such claims from international employees – particularly seafarers – seems to be reduced.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.