In the recent Court of Appeal case of Okedina v Chikale, Mrs Okedina had arranged for Ms Chikale, a Malawian national, to move to the UK as her live-in domestic worker and had organised her UK visa. However, when she failed to renew the visa without telling Ms Chikale, the relationship broke down and Ms Chikale made a number of claims including unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, race discrimination and deductions from wages.
Mrs Okedina claimed an ‘illegality defence’ arguing that Ms Chikale was working illegally as her visa had expired and therefore her claims could not succeed. However, the Court of Appeal held that the legislation’s aim was to impose penalties on those who employed people illegally, it was not aimed at the workers themselves. Due to the fact Ms Chikale was not aware her visa had been allowed to lapse, she was entitled to remedy through the employment tribunal.
This is obviously a relatively novel case, in that an employee would normally be aware if they were working without leave to remain. However, it does demonstrate the complex nature of the overlap between immigration and employment law and that employment contracts may still be enforceable irrespective of immigration status.
If you have any questions on immigration status and employment matters, do not hesitate to contact your dedicated Employment Solicitor today. Just don’t ask them about Brexit before they’ve had their morning coffee (or two)…