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LONDON’s Court of Appeal has ruled that an employment tribunal does have jurisdiction to hear unfair dismissal claims from UK seafarers despite the fact that their ships may be flagged elsewhere and their employers based yet somewhere else.

The Court held that the key question is not where the employer is based but where the employee is based and ‘where his duty ends and begins’. Seafarers are treated as peripatetic employees and not expatriates. The judgment has caused some comment from union and shipowner representatives alike. Some have suggested that it is not clear whether a seafarer would be entitled to claim if he does not join the ship or disembark in the UK.

True, it’s not 100% clear, but we’re not so sure that the implication is right. Make your own mind up by reading the full judgment (see the link below). We think that this following sentence from another case (Crofts v Veta Ltd [2005] ICR 1436) which was quoted with approval by the Court of Appeal strongly suggests that the courts would in all likelihood treat a seafarer’s tour of duty as beginning / ending in the UK even if he has to travel to or from an overseas location to join or leave a ship:

Their tours of duty began and ended in London. Even if a flying cycle began elsewhere, the tour of duty began when they reported to London Heathrow for the purpose of being ´positioned´ to the port from which the flying cycle was to commence.”

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