In this case the claimant, Mr Fuller, was a US citizen, employed by a US company, who was required to spend around 49% of his time over here. Mr Fuller tried to bring claims of unfair dismissal and sexual orientation discrimination in an English tribunal.
The Employment Rights Act 1996, which gives employees the right to claim unfair dismissal, is silent on the question of whether a claimant needs to work in the UK, and to what extent, in order to be able to bring claims. The Equality Act 2010 is also silent on this point.
In the leading case which tries to plug this gap, covering discrimination claims, Serco v Lawson, the House of Lords held that there needs to be a sufficiently strong connection between the work being done and the UK for unfair dismissal claims to be valid here.
Applying Lawson v Serco in discrimination cases is not quite as straightforward however on the decision only dealt with unfair dismissal claims. Prior to the 2010 Equality Act legislation, anyone who worked “wholly or partly” in the UK would have been entitled to bring a discrimination claim. Under the old legislation, therefore, Mr Fuller would have been able to bring his claim for discrimination in the UK.
Even though Mr Fuller spent such a long time in the UK, the Employment Appeal judge found that there was an “overwhelmingly close connection” with the US, as he was paid in the US and had a US contract, but was only required to spend time in the UK. All his activities were carried out for the US employer.
Applying Lawson v Serco, there was not, therefore, a sufficient connection with the UK to bring the unfair dismissal or discrimination claims.