Cases concerning employment status crop up pretty regularly. This case (Boss Projects v Bragg) is a stark reminder of the state of the law – and it’s pretty typical of the way cases are decided nowadays.
The key message to take from these cases is usually the same: parties’ declarations about employment status are rarely worth the paper they’re written on. Whether someone is a worker (and entitled to most employment law protections short of unfair dismissal) or not depends on the work they do day-to-day, and the true nature of their relationship with those they provide a service to. The fact that they have a contract or letter which states that they aren’t an employee or worker is regularly found to be irrelevant.
Mr Bragg was a scaffolding supervisor who worked under a chain of contracts. He was paid by Boss which, in turn, contracted with another company (and it with another) for the provision of subcontractors.
The words of Mr Bragg’s contract were pretty clear on his status – he was an independent subcontractor and not an employee. It also said that he didn’t have to provide personal service, instead having complete discretion to substitute or delegate the work. He could carry out other work before, after or at the same time as he worked for Boss, and was responsible for his own tax and national insurance.
Despite all the above, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that Mr Bragg was a ‘worker’, and not self-employed. As with all worker status cases, it boiled down to the true nature of the relationship between the parties. Relevant here was the fact that Mr Bragg didn’t use his own tools while working for Boss, and that although he could provide someone else to do his work, neither he nor Boss intended for that to happen; he had been personally selected for the role.