Illegal workers may be able to bring discrimination claims
At common law, a court will not normally enforce a contract where the basis of its performance results in an illegal act. In Hounga v Allen and Another  UKSC 47, the Supreme Court considered whether an employee who worked illegally was barred from pursuing a discrimination claim against her employer.
Miss Hounga, a Nigerian national, arrived in the UK in January 2007 after having falsely obtained a visitor’s visa. She was employed by Mrs Allen as a live-in nanny despite having no right to work in the UK and, after July 2007, no right to remain. Hounga was mistreated by Allen and in July 2008, Allen evicted Hounga from the household, effectively dismissing her from employment.
Hounga succeeded in a claim against Ms Allen for unlawful discrimination in relation to the dismissal. Upon appeal, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned an earlier Court of Appeal decision and held that an employee, who entered the UK dishonestly and had no right to work in this country, was not prevented by the doctrine of illegality from pursuing a race discrimination claim against her employers.
The judges ruled that there was an insufficiently close connection between Hounga’s immigration offences and her claim for discrimination. As a result, illegal workers can in certain circumstances bring discrimination claims against an employer despite the basis of the contract being unlawful.
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