What is the legal significance of a person’s employment status?
A person’s employment status, under employment law, determines their rights and their employer’s responsibilities.
Classifications of employment status include:
- self-employed and contractor
- office holder
What is a ‘worker’?
Generally, a person is considered a ‘worker’ if:
- they have a contract or verbal agreement to personally perform work in exchange for financial gain or a benefit in kind (for example, future work)
- they only have the right to ‘sub-contract’ (that is, assign someone else to do the work) in limited circumstances
- they must report for work even if they would prefer not to
- they are not doing the work as part of their own limited company, where the ’employer’ is a customer
- their employer must provide work for them for the length of the contract or arrangement.
Which of the main employment rights are workers entitled to?
Workers are entitled to a range of employment rights, including:
- the national minimum wage
- the statutory minimum number of paid holidays and rest breaks
- the right not to work more than 48 hours (on average) per week or to opt-out of this right if they choose
- the right not to be treated less favourably due to part-time working status
- protection for ‘whistle-blowing’ (reporting wrongdoing in the workplace)
- protection against unlawful discrimination and unlawful deduction from wages.
In addition to these rights, workers may be entitled to statutory sick pay, statutory maternity pay and ordinary statutory paternity pay.
Are there any traditional employment rights that workers are not entitled to?
Workers are not normally entitled to minimum notice periods (for instance, when an employer is dismissing them), time off work for emergencies, flexible working, statutory redundancy pay and protection against unfair dismissal.
Which organisations make legal decisions on employment status?
A court or employment tribunal can make a final decision on a person’s employment status, taking into consideration all the circumstances surrounding their case.
They will look at the essence of the employment relationship between the person and the business and how it operates in practice.
In certain circumstances, HM Revenue & Customs may consider a person self-employed for tax purposes. However, a court or employment tribunal may decide that they are a worker for the purposes of employment law.
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