Under employment law, a worker is not simply someone who works, because someone who provides labour could be categorised as an employee, as being self employed, or as being a worker. The category of worker originates from European law and includes any person who provides personal service, but who is not genuinely in business in their own account. An employee is therefore also a worker, but the category of worker can be wider than that of employee.
There are a number of pieces of legislation which provide protection to workers, rather than simply to employees. These include the Working Time Regulations and the protection from detriment for people who make protected disclosures, or more commonly known as whistleblowers.
In the recent case of Keppel Seghers UK Limited v Hinds  the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld a decision from the Employment Tribunal that Mr Hinds, who was providing his services through his own service company of which he was the sole shareholder and director, was a worker for the purposes of the whistleblowing legislation. This was so even though, by using his own service company to provide his services, he was clearly in business in his own right.
The EAT looked at the legislation covering whistleblowing contained in section 47B(1) Employment Rights Act 1996 and the reason why it was introduced. They also looked in detail at the relationship between Mr Hinds’ service company and Keppel Seghers. They noted that the purpose of the legislation was to protect individuals who had made protected disclosures. They also noted that the contractual documentation required Mr Hinds’ service company to provide his services, with no ability to provide a substitute. In the circumstances the EAT upheld the approach adopted by the Employment Tribunal in rejecting the appeal by Keppel Seghers and by looking at the purpose of the legislation, rather than simply applying the literal interpretation.
The EAT did emphasise that this case is limited to claims brought under the whistleblowing legislation, and it would not apply to cases brought under other areas of employment law. The impact of the decision is therefore fairly limited, but it is one to remember when dealing with whistleblowing issues.
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).