Your rights do not depend upon your knowledge of them

A recent ruling from the Court of Appeal has underlined the fact that a United Kingdom citizen’s rights do not depend upon their knowledge of them. Partner Andrew Bryan said, “This is a relatively simple case but it has profound and positive implications for the protection of UK citizens by the courts”.

In the case in question, an employer was found not to be entitled to rely on an employee’s ignorance of her rights under UK law for an assertion that the employee could not have resigned her employment because of what was a breach of contract by the employer.

The claimant was a foreign national who had been employed as a domestic worker. When she left her employment, she sued her employer for race discrimination and unfair dismissal. She lost her case at the Employment Tribunal but her case was taken to the Court of Appeal on her behalf by the Anti-trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit. 

The Court dismissed the appeal in relation to race discrimination, agreeing with the Employment Tribunal that the claimant was not less favourably treated than a hypothetical comparison employee. However, the court noted that the claimant had been paid an equivalent to 33 pence an hour - way below the national minimum wage. On the basis of this, and even though the employee had not known that she should have been paid significantly more by law, the court ruled that the employer was in breach of contract with their employee who had rightfully left the employ. The court therefore ruled that the employee had been constructively dismissed. 

If you would like assistance in relation to an employment issue, call Andrew on 023 92 820 747 for further information.

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