Court of Justice ruling regarding the habitual place of work in “Ryanair-case”

15 Sep 2017

In its ruling of this 14 September the European Court of Justice confirms its earlier case-law with regard to employees who simultaneously work in various Member States. These employees can bring proceedings before the courts of the place from where they perform the essential part of their duties for their employer. The national court must determine this place in concreto in the light of all relevant circumstances. For the cabin crew in the aviation industry, the ‘home base’ can therefore be a significant indicator, without being equated with it.  

Several members of Ryanair’s cabin crew, with ‘home base’ in Charleroi, had started legal proceedings in 2011. According to their employment contracts Irish legislation was applicable to them and the Irish courts had jurisdiction. They disagreed and claimed before the Belgian court various arrears of salary and a severance indemnity according to Belgian law. 

Ryanair claimed that the Belgian courts had no jurisdiction. As a result,  the Court of Justice was  asked a preliminary question regarding the concept ‘place where the employee habitually carries out his work’, which determines in a cross-boarder employment situation which court has jurisdiction. The ruling concerns the older Brussel I  Regulation but a similar provision is included in the current Brussel Ibis Regulation. Furthermore, the same concept is used in the Rome Convention and the Rome I Regulation to determine the applicable law. 

The Court of Justice has now repeated its principles and stressed that the national court must take all relevant indicators into consideration to determine where or from where the employee habitually carries out his work. These can include, inter alia, the place from which the employee carries out his transport-related tasks, the place where he returns after his tasks, the place where he receives instructions concerning his tasks and organizes his work, and the place where his work tools are to be found. For the aviation industry, this also includes the place where the relevant aircrafts are stationed and where the employees have their ‘home base’. The latter constitutes a significant indicator but cannot be equated with the place where the work is habitually carried out.  This place can also not be equated with the nationality of the aircraft. 

> Action point 
For employees who work in various Member States, employers must always determine where or from where the employees perform the essential part of their duties, in the light of all relevant circumstances, to determine which court has jurisdiction and the applicable law.  

Court of Justice, 14 September 2017, C-168/16 and C169/16