More and more individuals are now looking for greater flexibility in the way that they work which in turn has led to the emergence of what is known as the “gig economy”. This is based on a new model of working where individuals are engaged by businesses on a flexible, ad hoc basis. This new model has led to an increase in problems for employers on how they determine employment status, both for the purpose of employment rights and tax liability. It has also led to a number of high profile cases. These cases include taxi drivers working for Uber, a bicycle courier at CitySprint and a plumber at Pimlico Plumbing who have all successfully claimed “worker” status even though their employers considered them to be self-employed.

A worker has a number of important employment rights including paid annual leave and rest breaks, the national minimum wage and statutory sick pay. They also have the right to claim unlawful deduction from wages and protection against victimisation when making a protected disclosure under whistleblowing legislation. It is therefore important that employers know the employment status of their workforce to avoid costly claims and disputes.

Different tests have developed under case law that enable a business or often their employment lawyer to identify what employment status an individual may have. The question of whether a person is an employee, worker or self-employed is often both a question of fact and law. The question of “worker” status will always be a very fact-specific assessment as the statutory definition of “worker” remains very wide. Unfortunately, under employment law it remains impossible to set down a clear set of defining criteria against which an individual’s status can be definitively determined.

In view of the gig economy and the ongoing difficulties in assessing employment status, several reviews and studies were launched at the end of 2016. From an employment law perspective, the most significant review was initiated by BEIS, the government department responsible for business, industrial strategy, science, innovation, energy, and climate change which has led to The Independent Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy, now known as the Taylor Review. This review will consider the implications of new models of working on the rights and responsibilities of workers, as well as on employer freedoms and obligations.

BEIS has said that the results of the Taylor Review, which will be available in July 2017, will “inform the government’s industrial strategy”. It is also hoped that this review will kick-start a legislative process under which the government will provide a clearer statutory definition of “worker”. A clearer definition would then allow businesses and individuals to agree upon a mutually beneficial arrangement, without the burden of legal obligations that neither party expected.

For further information on employment status or to obtain specific legal advice on any area of employment law call Henry Doswell of Doswell Law Solicitors Ltd. on 01233 722942 or email him at

Disclaimer: Whilst every reasonable effort is made to make the information and commentary contained in this article accurate and up to date, Doswell Law Solicitors Ltd. takes no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it. The information and commentary in this article does not constitute legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice from a lawyer about your case or matter.