Workers do not benefit from the full range of protection afforded to employees, but they are entitled to paid holidays, whistleblowing protection, discrimination protection, as well as the national minimum wage.
If a contract contains a genuine and unfettered right of substitution, there will be no 'personal service' under the second point of the test set out above. Without personal service, an individual cannot be a worker or an employee.
The school engaged Mrs Scott as a VMT under their standard 'peripatetic contract' as a self-employed contractor.
Under the contract, Mrs Scott was required to obtain payment for lessons direct from the parents of pupils and was entirely responsible for her own financial arrangements including tax as a self-employed contractor. The Employment Tribunal (ET) held that the contract was not a "sham" and that Mrs Scott could provide a substitute. However, because the right to send a substitute was only used "when necessary" this was not inconsistent with personal service.
The ET's conclusion was supported by the fact that the individual VMTs were identified by name in the school's published information to parents.
The good news is that the ET held that Mrs Scott did not satisfy the legal test to establish employment status. The following factors were considered inconsistent with employee status:
However the ET set out four factors which it considered meant that Mrs Scott was more properly to be described as someone providing her services as part of the school's business, not independently from it (ie that she was a worker as opposed to a self-employed contractor):
The arrangement in this case is common with that of many schools. It has highlighted that where a self-employed contractor has to provide their work personally or has limitations on their ability to provide a substitute, and where they are seen to be part of the service provided by the school, there is a real risk they may in fact be found to be a worker or an employee.
Whilst cases involving worker status will always turn on their particular facts, this case provides an insight into how far a tribunal may go to find against self-employed status. It is important to note that this is a first instance decision and is not binding on future tribunals. The case may be appealed and there will be further developments in case law.
Based on this case, it is still possible to maintain a position of self-employment but it is worth a critical review of documents and practices to ensure they are as far as possible on the right side of the line.
Alternatively, schools may decide that now is the time to review and move staff on to employment (or possibly worker) contracts. This would need to be handled carefully to minimise the risk of claims for arrears of holiday pay, other financial benefits and also potentially Teachers' Pension Scheme contributions.