In today’s working environment, not everyone who works for a business is an employee. Some are self-employed, others are workers or agency workers.

Given that employees have extensive employment rights the boundaries between these different categories are to some extent unclear. This can be demonstrated from the history of case law concerning individuals whose status have been contested in the Courts.

This guide reviews the significance of these findings and how businesses can safeguard themselves against future challenges.

1. The Gig economy and Uber

The rapid rise of the gig economy has been heralded by a host of emerging online platforms that give access to work opportunities to freelance individuals and contractors. One such business is Uber which is almost certain to appeal against the tribunal’s finding that its drivers are “workers” (rather than self-employed contractors) and therefore entitled to be paid the national minimum wage and given paid annual leave.

2. Pimlico Plumbers Ltd and another v Smith (2017)

In Pimlico Plumbers Ltd and another v Smith (2017) the Court of Appeal recently confirmed that a “self-employed” plumber was, in fact a worker and entitled to claim disability discrimination as a “worker”.

3. Review and monitor your employment practices

Since many businesses engage a combination of employees, agency workers and self-employed contractors to meet their commercial obligations there is an inherent risk that the employment status of an individual may change over time. Reason being is that working practices/arrangements can alter over time to the extent that, for example, a contractor is in reality an employee or a worker.

The financial implications of this can be significant for employers. Recent case law has also shown that having a signed contract for services does not guarantee that the worker will be held by the Court to be a self-employed contractor.

Businesses can safe-guard themselves by regularly reviewing their working practices and contractual arrangements and seeking advice from a suitably qualified HR professional, if there is any doubt on the true status of the relationship.

For more information, contact Ramshaw HR @

By Bruce Ramshaw

Principal Consultant

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