Having ‘worker’ status entitles individuals to a number of benefits that would not be available to them if they were self-employed contractors, such as paid rest breaks, protection against discrimination, holiday pay and an entitlement to the national minimum wage.

In the recent case of Boxer -v- Excel Group Services Ltd, the Employment Tribunal continued the current trend and found that worker status should be applied to a courier whose contract held him out to be a self-employed contractor. In this case, the judge held that despite the fact Mr Boxer provided his own tools (which included a bicycle, mobile phone and protective clothing), he was not providing services on his own account as a business undertaking and was not entering into contracts for his business with clients. Some further factors relevant to this finding were that Mr Boxer worked five days per week under the control of Excel - for example, he was expected to be available throughout the working day to pick up the next job that was allocated to him and was expected to wait in a particular location. In addition, he was paid a fixed and non-negotiable rate for undertaking his services, never agreed his own terms with a client and was required to notify Excel in advance if he ever planned to take any time off.

This decision supports the clear message being sent by the tribunals and courts recently: namely, that they will look beyond any written contractual arrangement and will evaluate the reality of the situation as whole in order to determine an individual’s employment status.