Employee, worker, self-employed, contractor, employer? Know your rights

Are you an employee, worker, self-employed or contractor? Not sure? It is important to understand the difference, as this may determine your rights.

You may think you know the answer to that question, but the answer may be different from what you imagine. Your position may be either better or worse than you think!

Why is that, and what am I talking about?

I am referring fundamentally to the difference in legal rights between those who are legally ‘employees’ and those who are ‘self-employed’. The former have certain rights such as the right to claim unfair dismissal, redundancy, maternity pay, holiday pay, statutory sick pay and others rights. The latter do not.

Just to make things more confusing, there is a category in the middle, classed as ‘workers’, who have some of these rights, but not others. Importantly, workers, do not have the right to claim unfair dismissal.

In a leading case in the Supreme Court on 11thJune 2018, it was decided that a plumber who had been working for Pimlico Plumbers Ltd apparently on a self-employed basis, paying with his own tax and NI, was still a worker for legal purposes. He was therefore entitled to holiday pay and sick pay This was mostly because of the degree of control exercised by the company over his work. He worked exclusively for Pimlico, and drove their van, and wore the company uniform whilst at work. It was important that he was not acting as an independent entrepreneur, touting for work for himself for his own account.

This case reflects other decisions in this area involving drivers for Uber, Deliveroo, and Addison Lee. In fact the Uber case was decided by the Court of Appeal in favour of the drivers in 2019 – they were classed as ‘workers’. A few other cases have been decided in favour of employers.

The crucial point of all of them, which should be borne in mind by businesses and individuals alike, is that the issue of ‘employment’ status is a factual decision in each case. It is a good idea to get professional advice about your position in good time, and have a reliable contract drawn up to reflect and solidify the true position.

However, even many lawyers who are not well-versed in employment law do not understand that even a contract cannot alter the legal position after the event, if the facts indicate that only a particular version of the legal position is correct on the facts.

We can help with either:

  • advising on how the law applies to your particular circumstances
  • drawing up a suitable agreement /contract
  • a dispute that has arisen which turns upon employment status

If you think your rights are being violated, or you would just to know more about what you can and cannot do, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.


Kuldeep S. Clair

Consultant Solicitor

Employment, Dispute Resolution and Litigation

+44 (0) 7484 61 4090