The claimant worked as a beauty consultant in airside duty free at Heathrow Airport. She formed a limited company, which invoiced a company called CSA for the hours she worked each month. CSA provided staff (including the claimant) to the relevant cosmetics brand. However, the duty free outlet in which the claimant worked was actually operated by another company called WDF. It was WDF that was responsible for arranging airside passes. When it withdrew the claimant's pass, she was no longer able to work airside. The claimant wanted to claim that she had been discriminated against, but in order to do so she needed to show that she was an employee within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010.
Under the Equality Act an individual is an employee if they are employed "under a contract of employment, a contract of apprenticeship or a contract personally to do work". By the time the case reached the EAT, the issue was whether the claimant could show that she was employed under a contract "personally to do work". The EAT upheld the tribunal's reasoning that she was not. There was no contract at all between the claimant and WDF and the contract with CSA was through the limited company not with the individual herself. Even if she could show that there was a contract in place, it contained a substitution clause which the claimant had apparently relied upon. This meant she was unable to show that she was under an obligation to provide services personally – she was contractually entitled to send someone else to work in her place.
The claimant argued that European law required a purposive approach to be taken, so that someone who was effectively in a position of dependency should be regarded as employed and able to enforce their rights not to be discriminated against. Although the EAT was clearly troubled by the fact that someone in the claimant's position could be discriminated against and would not be able to enforce their rights because of the contractual arrangements in place, on the facts of this case the tribunal had been entitled to conclude that the claimant could not show that she was an employee.