No immunity from discrimination claim

Posted: 14th January 2013

A foreign embassy worker must pay more than £70,000 compensation to a former domestic employee after failing to defeat her discrimination claims on grounds of diplomatic immunity from suit. The role performed by the cleaner and child-minder did not fall under the aegis of her employer’s diplomatic ‘mission’ to the UK, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruled.

EATThe worker was awarded the compensation after an employment tribunal upheld her claims that she had been subjected to harassment, as well as race, sex and religious discrimination during the 10 months she worked within the diplomat’s household. Although the employer played no part in the hearing, claiming that he was unaware of it, he was deemed to have been effectively served with the proceedings.

On appeal, the employer argued that the employment tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear the case against him because he was first secretary of a foreign embassy for part of the period of the woman’s employment and thus enjoyed inviolability under the Vienna Convention and Diplomatic and Privileges Immunities Act 1964.

In dismissing the appeal, the EAT acknowledged that diplomatic protection may in certain circumstances extend to personal services – such as those of a personal assistant - provided to a diplomat whilst engaged in his mission. However, the employee’s role was confined exclusively to the diplomat’s home and her services were provided in a private context, having no connection to his official position.