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Afghan Nationals Working Abroad Not Able to Bring UK Discrimination Claim

on Friday, 24 July 2015.

The High Court has considered whether Afghan nationals working as interpreters, employed by the British government and working with British forces in Afghanistan could bring discrimination claims under UK law.

In R (on the application of Hottak and anor) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and anor, the two Afghan interpreters tried to bring discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) on the basis that their contracts were on less favourable terms with regard to benefits and relocation opportunities than employees engaged in Iraq. They sought to argue that as employees of the British Government, the EqA 2010 applied to their employment in Afghanistan.

The High Court rejected this argument, holding that even though the EqA 2010 is silent on its territorial jurisdiction, the Afghan interpreters could not bring a discrimination case under the EqA 2010. The case of Lawson v Serco was applied where it was held that there must be a physical contact or connection with Great Britain for the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996) to apply to expatriate or peripatetic workers working abroad. In this case, the High Court found that the same reach should apply to the EqA 2010, as the ERA 1996 and that the Afghan interpreters did not have a stronger connection with British employment law than Afghanistan employment law.

It should be noted that permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal has been granted.

For more information, please contact Helen Hughes in our Employment Law team on 020 7665 0816.