Community Dental Centres Ltd v Sultan-Darmon 2001 AER 99

This case concerns a dentist contracted to provide dental services to a Primary Care Trust. He had entered into a contract with CDC which was described as a licence agreement and contract for service. It specifically stated that his status was a self-employed independent contractor dentist with full clinical freedom and accepting full clinical responsibility.

The dentist brought a claim at the end of the agreement for wages and unlawful deductions. The tribunal found that he was not an employee as there was not sufficient mutuality of obligation. However, it concluded that it was more likely than not that he met the statutory definition of worker on the basis that he carried out services personally. Therefore he was entitled to pursue his claim before the tribunal.

CDC appealed and their appeal was allowed. The tribunal could not simultaneously conclude in different parts of its decision that there had been and then there had not been an obligation to perform services personally. A worker, within the statutory meaning, has to satisfy three conditions. There had to be a contract between the parties, that contract had to be one in which an individual undertook to perform work personally for another and that other should not be a client or customer or a professional business carried on by the individual. CDC argued that the tribunal’s finding that there was no mutuality of obligation when considering whether he was an employee was also determinative of him not being a worker. The Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed. The dentist had a right of substitution, so he was not required to do any work or perform personally any work or service. Therefore he could not be a worker.

Key point: The case is a useful résumé of the authorities on who is a worker, which is an important distinction as workers have less statutory protection than employees.