The decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Clyde & Co LLP v Winkelhof  UKEAT 056 holds that limited liability partnership (LLP) members may be "workers" for the purposes of whistle-blowing protection, even if they are remunerated in part by a profit share. The case concerned an equity member of a LLP who worked in part in the UK and in part for an associated firm in Tanzania. She was expelled from the partnership after she made allegations of bribery and corruption against associated Tanzanian firm AKO Law’s managing partner, Kibuta Ongwamuhana. She made a complaint that her expulsion was detrimental treatment on the ground of a protected disclosure. She also made complaints of sex discrimination and pregnancy discrimination.
At a preliminary hearing her claim was rejected because she did not fall within the definition of a "worker" and was therefore not entitled to protection. The Employment Appeal Tribunal overturned this decision, concluding that she fell within the definition of a worker, that is a person working under a contract "to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual". Although, for some of the time, the claimant was working on her own account, when she did so, the respondent partnership was not her client.
The question also arose whether the tribunal had jurisdiction to hear her claims under the Equality Act 2010 (which specifically covers partners) when she worked partly in Tanzania (she had spent 78 days of the year in London). The EAT took the approach that it could make the assumption that "there is no difference in approach to this jurisdictional question under the [Employment Rights Act] in all its forms of statutory protection and under the [Equality Act]". It could therefore apply the test in Ravat v Halliburton Manufacturing and Services Ltd  ICR 389, that the tribunal would have jurisdiction if the facts showed a stronger connection with Great Britain than Tanzania, which, in the judgment of the EAT, was a perfectly legitimate conclusion for the employment tribunal to reach. It therefore ordered that both claims could proceed.
However, Clyde & Co is not willing to leave it at that. They have secured a remarkably early hearing in the Court of Appeal on 18 and 19 July. It is understood that the primary ground of appeal concerns the jurisdiction point. The early referral to the Court of Appeal should be welcomed because there is a noticeable trend for many more employees and workers outside the UK being able to bring employment claims in the UK and many employers do not have their systems and procedures geared up for this. As the law stands it is theoretically possible for people who have never worked in the UK to be able to bring claims under, say, the Equality Act. Taking into account the widely varying business practices and social standards which apply in different jurisdictions the opportunity for a significant increase in the number of such claims is obvious.