Chris Dobbs, specialist employment law solicitor, examines an important ruling for self-employed hairdressers in the case of Meghan Gorman.
Self-employed hairdressers can be employees
High-profile employment status cases have been dominating employment law for the last couple of years. Yesterday's ruling on self-employed hairdressers is an important one for the estimated 4 million workers in the 'gig economy'.
Employment status of hairdressers
You have different rights at work depending on your employment status. People who are ‘employees’ have significantly more protection than ‘workers’ and the ‘self-employed’ have very few rights at all.
Who is Meghan Gorman?
Meghan Gorman brought an employment tribunal claim against the Terence Paul chain of salons. The company argued that because she was self-employed, she could not claim for unfair dismissal. They were right to make this point as the self-employed do not have this protection.
However, as a preliminary hearing in March, an Employment Judge found that this was a case of what trade unions are calling ‘false self-employment’. The Tribunal ruled that Ms Gorman was actually an employee of the company and therefore entitled to bring all of her claims.
Are all hairdressers now employees?
No. These kind of cases are almost always decided on their individual facts. A full reasoning behind the decision has not yet been released but I suspect it will be concerned with Ms Gorman’s actual working patterns.
Usually, tribunals are concerned with the degree of control a company has over an individual; if you are treated like an employee with fixed hours and an expectation to work when you are told to do so, you may be an employee.
What is a self-employed hairdressers' chair rental agreement?
Chair rental agreements are one of the most common ways of salons engaging individuals to work on site. The individuals are usually self-employed and rent the use of the chair during working hours.
They keep most or all their takings and only work the hours they chose to work. In most cases, these are genuine self-employment arrangements and the rental agreement is a commercial contract.
The fact that you have a chair rental agreement is not conclusive proof that you are self-employed and the way you are treated by the company will be stronger evidence of employment status.
Different types of employer-employee arrangements in the industry are explored in this article from the Hairdressers' Journal.
Employment rights of hairdressers
Now that she has been deemed an employee, Ms Gorman is able to bring a considerable number of claims against her employer.
Employees have a wide-range of unique rights, including:
- Minimum notice periods
- Entitlement to minimum wage
- Protection from being unfairly dismissed
- Statutory sick leave and pay
- Statutory parental leave and pay
- Pension contributions under the automatic enrolment
Self-employed workers are not legally entitled to these rights.
Cases like this can be hugely problematic for employers. In Ms Gorman’s case, she may be able to argue that she was employed since 2013 and so there could be claims for unpaid sums to which she was entitled throughout the last six years.
An employment law & HR specialist solicitor's view on self-employed hairdressers
Employment status is a constantly developing area of employment law. The way people work and the rise of the ‘gig economy’ in recent years has brought status to the top of the list of legal issues. Tribunals tend to be very intolerant of ‘false self-employment’ and the wording of a contract by itself will not be enough to decide.
Employers may use this case to review their contracts and practices. If you believe that you could have actually been an employee, you may want to consider taking legal advice on your specific circumstances.
Employment Lawyers in Bournemouth, Christchurch, Ringwood and The New Forest
Our specialist employment law & HR team have advised many hairdressers and salon owners on employment status.
We offer a free initial chat with one of our bright, friendly lawyers to all new clients. Call us on 01202 499 255 or visit the contact us page to get in touch.