UCL Institute for Human Rights


Illegality, Human Rights and Employment: A Watershed Moment for the United Kingdom Supreme Court?

24 March 2014

Virginia Mantouvalou, Co-Director of IHR, and Alan Bogg, Professor of Labour Law at Oxford University, have written a piece  for the UK Constitutional Law Association (UKCLA) on the Court of Appeal's application of the doctrine of illegality in the case Allen v. Hounga which could carry serious implications for the human rights of undocumented migrant workers.

The case concerns Ms Hounga, a Nigerian national, who after having entered into an unlawful work arrangement with the defendant, experienced serious physical abuse, denial of pay and eventual dismissal. Ms Hounga made several appeals to the Employment Tribunal, but the Court of Appeal found that as she had no right to work in the UK she had no right to protection under the race discrimination act.

The article asks under what circumstances can the illegal work status of a migrant worker bar a statutory tort claim for race discrimination through the common law doctrine of illegality.