A recent ruling in the case of a worker for an NHS ‘umbrella company’ has been hailed as a “groundbreaking victory” by Unite.
The case concerned pipe fitter Russ Blakely, who was working at Broadmoor hospital but was not employed by the NHS. Like many like him in the construction trade his employment status was wrapped up in the ‘umbrella’ system – being employed through a contractor and recruitment agency and his wages paid via a separate payroll company.
After he was denied holiday and sick pay and he discovered his employer’s national insurance contributions were being unlawfully deducted from his wages, Mr Blakely went to an employment tribunal.
During the hearing it was discovered that the payroll company also included an indemnity clause with the purpose of preventing him from pursuing any legal claims and stopping him raising complaints with HMRC.
His case was taken up by the UK’s largest union, Unite, who branded the indemnity clause as “menacing” and helped Mr Blakely pursue an appeal after the initial claim was unsuccessful.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled in his favour in a ruling that sets a legal precedent regarding what Unite’s assistant general secretary Howard Beckett called “bogus self-employment”.
This is a groundbreaking victory secured by Unite’s Strategic Case Unit in the fight against bogus self-employment in construction and other sectors
It blows a hole in the way that employment agencies hide behind payroll and umbrella companies and pretend that they are not responsible for the employment of the workers they recruit.
The fact the Employment Agency Tribunal held that a worker could be jointly employed by two organisations is a game changer in the campaign against bogus self-employment.
Unite will be ensuring that the its findings are fully utilised to ensure that other workers are not denied their basic employment rights or exploited by agencies and parasitical payroll companies.
This decision sends out an unequivocal message to all those involved in bogusly self-employing workers, Unite and our Strategic Case Unit is on your case.
Whilst this isn’t the type of appeal that a mistreated worker might bring on their own, employers should beware, as Unite members have the unwavering support of the country’s largest trade union.