The Competent Jurisdiction for International Workers

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The concept of the “place where the employee habitually works” is an essential concept for determining which employment law is to be applied and which jurisdiction is competent. According to a recent case of the Belgian Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation), this concept should not be interpreted in a purely quantitative way, as in the place where the employee works the majority of his time.

The competent court in the EU is regulated by Brussels Ibis Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters. However, the facts of the case date from before the entry into force of this recast Regulation and therefore the judges had to take into account the previous Brussels I Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 of 22 December 2000. Both Regulations provide that an employer can be sued in the country where he is domiciled, or in another Member State if the employee habitually carries out his work there, or in the courts of the last place where he habitually carried out his work, or, if the employee does not habitually carry out his work in the same country, in the courts of the place where the business which engaged the employee is or was situated.

The case at hand concerns a Belgian manager of a British pharmaceutical company established in the United Kingdom. His last employment contract of approximately one year was for a position as vice-president of the company under a UK employment contract. According to the contract, the position is based at the company’s headquarters in London. Before this position, he was seconded to Belgium during some years. Following his dismissal, the manager claimed unpaid compensation from the parent company in the UK and from the Belgian branch before the Belgian labour courts.

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