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Territorial Jurisdiction

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[Thanks to Paul Lewis of St John's Chambers for providing this case summary]

The Court of Appeal has handed down its decision in Diggins v Condor Marine , which is authority for the proposition that an employee who works on a ship which is not registered in a British port may still claim unfair dismissal provided he can establish the necessary link with the UK.

At the heart of the case was a Suffolk based seaman who worked fortnightly shifts on board a ship trading between the Channel Islands and Portsmouth. The vessel was registered in Nassau, the company based in Guernsey. The company appealed against the decision of the EAT that:

(a) the tribunal did in principle have jurisdiction to hear a claim for unfair dismissal and
(b) that the relevant conditions necessary to satisfy the exercise of that jurisdiction existed in this case.

Reaffirming the approach espoused by the House of Lords in Serco, Elias LJ emphasised the key question is not where the employer is based, but where the employee is based; an employee is based where his duty begins and where it ends. On that basis, the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected the appeal allowing the unfair dismissal claim to proceed.