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Can't buy me self-employed status

Plastering Contractors Stanmore v Holden

Mr Holden was employed by Plastering Contractors Stanmore (PCS) as a general labourer. Four years after he started he agreed to pay PCS £200 in return for becoming a self-employed contractor, leading to him being paid and taxed differently.  

From that point, PCS used him on an as-and-when basis although he worked almost exclusively for the company. His pay depended on the work he undertook, according to a tariff set by PCS. PCS provided some safety clothing and a vehicle to ferry him from site to site.

That arrangement continued for 12 years until Mr Holden became fed up. He started working elsewhere and brought a holiday pay claim against PCS. The question was, was he a worker (and entitled to holiday pay) or self-employed (and not)?

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld the tribunal’s decision that, despite the purported change in status, Mr Holden remained a worker. He had been regularly offered work by PCS over a period of 16 years and the company expected him to turn up – and that meant he was integrated into the workforce. There was enough mutuality of obligation during each assignment to suggest worker status and PCS had exercised the necessary degree of control over him.

So attempts to change status, even where agreed and understood – and, as in this case, paid for – will not necessarily succeed where the reality of the working relationship is something else. It’s a message issued quite regularly by the EAT but still raises very arguable points and, therefore, grey areas for employers to carefully navigate.