Defining ’employment ‘. CJEU confirms AG Opinion in Holterman: dual director /employee capacity.

The CJEU yesterday confirmed the Opinion of Cruz Villalón AG in Holterman: please refer to my posting on the Opinion for background.

In particular, a contract for employment needs to be distinguished from a contract for the provision of services. ‘Contract of employment’ was addressed in the abstract by the CJEU in Shenavai, Case 266/85, where the Court identified a double requirement for it referred to the need for a contract to be qualified as a contract of employment: there must be durable relation between individual and company: a lasting bond, which brings the worker to some extent within the organisational framework of the business; and a link between the contract and the place where the activities are pursued, which determines the application of mandatory rules and collective agreements. However precedent value of Shenavai for the Brussels I and recast Regulation is necessarily incomplete, for at the time employees as a protected category did not yet exist in the Regulation and the Court’s findings on contracts of employment took place within the need to identify a ‘place of performance’ under the Brussels Convention’s special jurisdictional rule on contracts.

The Jenard and Möller report to the 1988 Lugano Convention suggested the relationship of subordination of the employee to the employer.

In Holterman the Court throws into the mix reference to its interpretation of secondary EU law on health and safety at work as well as European labour law, holding that ‘the essential feature of an employment relationship is that for a certain period of time one person performs services for and under the direction of another in return for which he receives remuneration’ (at 41).

Consequently the national courts now have quite a number of criteria which they need to apply in practice: it is not for the CJEU to do so in an individual case. In Holterman the Court does seem to suggest that once a worker finds himself qualified as an employee, for the purposes of the application of the Jurisdiction Regulation, that qualification will trump any other roles which that individual may play in the organisation (at 49: ‘the provisions of Chapter II, Section 5 (Articles 18 to 21) of Regulation No 44/2001 must be interpreted as meaning that they preclude the application of Article 5(1) and (3) of that regulation, provided that that person, in his capacity as director and manager, for a certain period of time performed services for and under the direction of that company in return for which he received remuneration, that being a matter for the referring court to determine.’).

In light of the deference to the factual assessment of the national court, the CJEU does complete the analysis with respect to (now) Article 7(1): if the contract is not one of employment, then the special jurisdictional rule of Article 7(1) needs to be applied. The director of a company, the Court holds, provides a service to the company within the meaning of Article 7(1)b. In the absence of any derogating stipulation in the articles of association of the company, or in any other document, it is for the referring court to determine the place where Mr Spies in fact, for the most part, carried out his activities in the performance of the contract, provided that the provision of services in that place is not contrary to the parties’ intentions as indicated by what was agreed. For that purpose, it is possible to take into consideration, in particular, the time spent in those places and the importance of the activities carried out there, it being a matter for the national court to determine whether it has jurisdiction in the light of the evidence submitted to it (at 64).

Finally, should national law also allow for an action in tort against the director of a company, the locus delicti commissi is the place where the director carries out his duties for the company (at 76). The locus damni is the place where the damage alleged by the company actually manifests itself; it cannot be construed so extensively as to encompass any place where the adverse consequences can be felt of an event which has already caused damage actually taking place elsewhere (at 77-78).

All in all, a useful completion of the Shenavai criterion, and in the main a referral to the national court for factual analysis.


(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading

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