Category Archives: employment law

Supreme Court ruling on state immunity gives tribunals jurisdiction to hear embassy worker claims

Two embassy workers, one working for the Libyan embassy in London and another working for the Sudanese embassy in London, brought claims in the employment tribunal, against Libya and Sudan respectively, after being dismissed. The claims were dismissed by the tribunal, on the basis that both Libya and Sudan benefited from state immunity under the State Immunity Act 1978.

A series of appeals joined these cases together and brought them before the Supreme Court. The heart of the issue lies in an apparent tension between the State Immunity Act -the purpose of which is to ensure there are no infringements to a foreign state’s sovereignty- and article 6 of the European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the right to a fair trial, which includes right of access to a court.

In reviewing the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, the Supreme Court found that article 6 violations had previously been found where the application of state immunity was contrary to rules of international law. Naturally, the Secretary of State argued that state immunity in this case was consistent with customary international law.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court found that there has been insufficient international consensus for customary international law to emerge regarding an absolute doctrine of state immunity. Therefore state immunity could not be extended to the employment of embassy staff, which the court deemed to be a private act, unrelated to the concept of state sovereignty.

Those claims which were based on EU law (such as those relating to working time, discrimination and harassment) were therefore allowed to proceed, and were remitted to the employment tribunal for consideration.

This decision is likely to benefit a horde of low-paid workers who were employed in embassies in the UK, and we may see numerous tribunal claims against foreign states proceed in the employment tribunals.

Our advice to embassies is put in place an immediate review of their contractual arrangements (employment contracts and contracts for services) to ensure they comply with English employment law to avoid falling foul of local laws. Please contact our employment team to find out how we can assist.

Benkharbouche (Respondent) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Appellant) and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Lybia (Appellants) v Janah (Respondent) [2017] UKSC 62.

ebl miller rosenfalck – December 2017

Contact details:

Philip Henson, Partner and Head of Employment Team



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Marguerite Perin, Trainee Solicitor

Marguerite is a trainee solicitor and a member of the firm’s French desk.

Marguerite commenced her training contract with us in September 2017 and will be undertaking work and gaining experience in all of our legal areas.

See Marguerite’s full profile here.

Contact Marguerite:


T: 0207 553 4074

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Christina Leung, Associate

Christina is a solicitor in our employment team and is a member of the French desk. She assists our corporate clients on a broad range of matters ranging from the recruitment of staff, contracts of employment, policy drafting and day to day workplace issues to redundancies, reorganisations and settlement agreements. She also supports our corporate team on the employment aspects of transactions.

See Christina’s full profile here.

Contact Christina:


T: 0207 553 4078

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Sara Kennedy, Legal Director

Sara joined ebl miller Rosenfalck in 2007 and is a Legal Director in the Employment Team and a member of the firm’s Scandinavian Desk.

Sara advises businesses on both contentious and non-contentious employment matters, including drafting employment contracts and staff handbooks, advising on day-to-day HR queries, termination of employment, business restructuring and tribunal claims. Sara also advises on the employment aspect of corporate transactions and commercial agreements, including the application of TUPE in the context of business sales and outsourcing of services.

See Sara’s full profile here.

Contact Sara:


T: 0207 553 9937

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Edzard Clifton-Dey, Partner

Edzard is a dual qualified (Anglo-German) employment law specialist and a partner in the firm’s Employment Team. He heads the firm’s German Desk.

Edzard advises employers on a broad range of contentious and non-contentious employment matters. He has a particular expertise in managing multi-jurisdictional workforce restructuring projects and he frequently advises our corporate clients on boardroom disputes, executive recruitments and senior management exits.

Edzard also advises multinational employers on the employee involvement in companies under the European Company Statute and on European Works Council matters and he supports transactional work including advice on the employment aspects of joint ventures, business sales, outsourcing and offshoring exercises.

Edzard is a regular speaker at seminars on international employment matters. He is one of the General Editors and a co-author of “Employment Law in Europe” (Bloomsbury Professional, 2009). Edzard is also a member of the OSEC (Swiss-British) Pool of Experts.

Being a German speaker he has a particular interest in advising German speaking clients in their native language on English employment law matters. He is recognised for his “experience of counselling German clients on cross-border employment issues” (Chambers Global 2013 directory). He is also recognised in the Chambers Global 2014 directory as a leader is his field of expertise.

See Edzard’s full profile here.

Contact Edzard:


T: 0207 553 6003

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Emmanuelle Ries, Managing Partner

Emmanuelle is the Firm’s Managing Partner and heads the French Desk.

Emmanuelle is a specialist of employment issues in cross border situations, from recruitment and secondments arrangements to termination issues. She also advises employers and employees in relation to High Court disputes on post termination restrictions.

Emmanuelle sits on the Advisory Council  of the French Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain and also counsels British and overseas clients with the employment aspects of setting up operations or acquiring a business in France and handling workforce and HR issues in France.

See Emmanuelle’s full profile here.

Contact Emmanuelle: 


T: 0207 553 9938

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Philip Henson, Partner and Head of Employment Team

Philip Henson is a Partner and Head of the Employment team. He is an experienced employment lawyer, qualified mediator and an astute negotiator. He is also qualified as a Solicitor (non-Practicing) in the Republic of Ireland.

He advises employers (from start-ups to global corporations) on a full range of employment related issues and litigation in the Employment Tribunal.

Philip has appeared as an employment law expert on BBC News; Sky News; ITN and BBC Radio; lectured for CIPD; and published legal articles/columns for the national, HR and trade press. He has also contributed to a working party of the Employment Lawyers Association that provided submissions to the UK Government (The Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry) on ensuring strong UK equalities legislation after Brexit.

Philip also represents senior directors (usually at FTSE 250 companies) in complex and high value board room disputes; and supports women in the City in high value harassment claims.

Philip is the Editor of City Solicitor Magazine and the Vice-Chair of Deen City Farm and Riding School (in South West London). He also enjoys writing screenplays, and collaborating with talented film makers as an executive producer.

See Philip’s full profile here.

Contact Philip: 


T: 0207 553 6006


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