Case law: Employer could not avoid consequences of breaching employment law on grounds employee was employed illegally

Employers failing to comply with employment law in relation to employees who are in the UK illegally cannot expect to avoid legal claims simply because the employee is employed illegally, a recent ruling makes clear.


A foreign national brought over from Malawi to work as a housemaid for her UK employer worked long hours, seven days per week, for £3,300 per year. She asked for more money and was dismissed and thrown out of the employer’s house.

The maid claimed unfair dismissal and unlawful deduction from wages.

The employer argued that the claims must fail as her contract of employment was illegal. Her visa had run out six months after she arrived and no new visa had been issued.

In fact, the employer had dealt with visa issues for the maid including forging her employee’s signature, appealing decisions in her name without telling her, and giving false information to the immigration authorities.

The Court of Appeal held that the relevant immigration laws were aimed at people who employed others illegally, not employees who had been illegally employed. The maid had not knowingly done anything illegal, so there was no reason to block her employment law claims.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendation

  • Employers failing to comply with employment law in relation to employees in the UK illegally cannot expect to avoid legal claims simply because the employee is illegal

Case ref: Okedina v Chikale [2019] EWCA Civ 1393

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