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British Overseas Military Bases Not Subject to UK Employment Laws

Jurisdiction can be a thorny issue in many employment disputes with an international flavour and one involving civilian workers at Britain’s two military bases on the island of Cyprus was a case in point.

Nineteen spouses of British military personnel based on the island claimed that they were treated less favourably in their civilian roles than workers recruited locally from the island’s population. They launched proceedings, claiming that they had suffered discrimination on grounds of their marital status, or national origin, in breach of the Equality Act 2010. An Employment Tribunal (ET) accepted jurisdiction to consider their complaints.

However, in overturning that decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the ET had erred in finding that English law applied to the spouses’ employment contracts with the Ministry of Defence. The sovereign bases, as British overseas territories, operated under their own legal regime. The issue as to whether the cases were sufficiently closely connected to the UK and UK law to confer jurisdiction was sent back to the ET for reconsideration.