Sacked crewmembers could have been able to appeal under French employment law

A recent case reported by professional indemnity mutual insurer for transport professionals ITIC, managed by Thomas Miller, highlighted the importance of owners and managers being aware of local employment law. Yacht managers were instructed by the owners to terminate the employment of two crew members. Both crew members were French nationals who were employed by the owners. The managers gave the crew a month’s notice as required by their contracts. These were said to state that employees were subject to “United Kingdom law”.

Subsequently lawyers representing the former crew members alleged that the owners terminated the employees’ contracts without any consideration for the procedures that had to be followed under French law. The former employees commenced litigation against both the owners and the managers and arrested the yacht – which was in French waters – to obtain security for their claim.

The owners complained that while they, as the employer of the crew, had issued instructions to terminate the employment contracts, the managers had not obtained any advice or guidance as to the procedural requirements under French employment law. The owners alleged this was negligent on the part of the managers and that this negligence had left them exposed to a claim under French employment law.

French lawyers advised that, should the matter go to litigation, the former crew member’s claims stood a good chance of succeeding as, despite the contract’s provisions, French law would apply. This was because the two individuals had been in France at the time of their employment.

The French lawyers also noted that, technically there was no “United Kingdom law” because England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate legal systems.

The claims came to a total of €194,680 and included damages for loss of earnings and compensation pursuant to French mandatory employment law.

In view of the advice from French lawyers the owners settled the crew claims for about €75,000. The managers denied that they were the people responsible for obtaining employment advice but ultimately agreed to contribute a third of the settlement.

https://www.itic review/article/crew contract confusion 143464/