Share It On

Irish aircraft, Irish employee?

Ryanair has confidently claimed in the past that working on its Irish registered aircraft makes you an Irish employee, and this even if you’re based in one of its bases across Europe. This claim has been now refuted.

In the case of Moreno Oscar vs. Ryanair, the Advocate General (AG) of the Court of Justice of the European Union, rejects Ryanair’s interpretation of the law: If there is a dispute over an employment contract the competent judge must take into account the place where the crew begins or finishes his/her work day.

In legal terms, this is the “habitual place of work” and, as stated by the AG, often this is the crews’ Home Base. But it might not always be the case and, for more accuracy, the AG suggests looking at 6 criteria to determine where the ‘habitual place of work’ is for crews.

Ryanair claims that working on its Irish registered aircraft makes you an Irish employee. This claim has been now refuted.

According to the Advocate General, that place must be identified by the national court in the light of all the relevant circumstances, in particular by taking into account the place

(1) where the worker starts and ends his/her working days;

(2) where the aircraft on board which (s)he carries out his/her work are habitually based;

(3) where (s)he  is made aware of the instructions communicated by his employer and where (s)he organises his/her working day;

(4) where (s)he is contractually required to reside;

(5) where an office made available by the employer is situated; 

(6) where (s)he must attend when (s)he is unfit for work or in the event of disciplinary problems.

These criteria often correspond to the Home Base of a crew member. Yet, the AG doesn’t put a direct equation sign between both (which would have been a very reasonable and pragmatic solution pilots have long insisted on) but takes a broader approach.

The AG’s opinion paves the way for a Court Judgement. This judgement has the enormous potential to bring legal certainty for the many thousands of air crews in Europe who doubt which laws apply to them, under which jurisdiction they fall, where to pay social security. Legal certainty on the habitual place of work would be a key element for better applying existing laws and preventing abuses from airlines.

This judgement has the enormous potential to bring legal certainty for the many thousands of air crews in Europe who doubt which laws apply to them

Ryanair’s overconfidence on its own interpretation of the law becomes clear when reading the AG’s opinion. The low cost airline’s interpretation would be contrary to the objective of protecting the employee. With other words, Ryanair interprets the law in a way that would suit the airline, rather than the workers.

Not everyone will like the AG’s opinion. A final ruling by the CJEU is expected during the summer. Good time for Ryanair to start revising its employee contracts?

Court of Justice of the European Union

Why? Ensuring EU law is interpreted and applied the same in every EU country; ensuring countries and EU institutions abide by EU law.

Who? Court of Justice: 1 judge from each EU country, plus 11 Advocates General

General Court: 47 judges. In 2019 this will be increased to 56 (2 judges from each EU country).

Where? Luxembourg

EUCJ logo