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  • Sarah Holmes

The gig economy in 2018

The world of work has changed; technology allows some of us to work from anywhere. If you live in a large town or city you can get food 24/7 and shop on line for shoes at breakfast and have them on your feet by the end of the day.

This may be great for consumers what about the people delivering the goods and servcies – are they workers, employees or self-employed?

It all depends on the contractual relationship with the company they work for. The reason it matters is many rights such as unfair dismissal and maternity leave come with employee status while rights like the minimum wage require worker status.

Just to make it more confusing all employees are workers, but not all workers are employees; the genuinely self-employed have very few employment rights.

Plumber Gary Smith hit the news recently when it was found he was a worker for Pimlico Plumbers which gave him the standing he needed to bring discrimination and holiday pay claims. His case followed similar decisions for Uber drivers. Claims are also being brought against Deliveroo and Addison Lee.

Workers have fewer statutory rights than employees but they do have some rights such as protection from discrimination; this is important as it means they have a right to go to an Employment Tribunal when things go wrong at work.

Whether you are an employee, worker or self-employed you should have something in writing. Employees are entitled to a written statement of employment particulars and self employed contractors are well advised to have agreements setting out what services are to be provided, how they will deiced what is done when and how payment is made. However is not just a matter of what is written down what matters is what actually happens in practice on a day-to-day basis.

Every year court cases hang on the distinction between the three categories but because the 21st century way we work is so varied there are no hard and fast definitions. What is written down will be a starting point when deciding on employment status, but where there is a dispute, a Tribunal looks at the actual day-to-day relationship with the entity that is paying the wages.

Where someone has to provide work personally on a regular basis, they can’t turn down work, are are told when and where the work is to be done, supplied with tools or equipment, have tax and National Insurance paid for them and can be disciplined for rule breaking or poor performance, they are probably an employee.

Someone who is contracted to do work personally but there is no right to tell them when and where work is done, they might not be an employee but may be a worker and entitled, for example, to the National Minimum Wage.

If someone is genuinely free to decide when and how they will work, can send someone in their stead, make their own sickness and holiday arrangements, and pay their own tax and National Insurance, they are likely to be a self-employed.

Sarah Holmes is an Employment Law Consultant Solicitor at Garden House Solicitors. Contact Sarah on 01992 422128 or

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