Workplace Report June 2007

Features: Law Contracts


Case 7: The facts

Mrs James worked for courier company Redcats, delivering parcels to private addresses using her own vehicle. She was paid according to the number of parcels she delivered and could decide to some extent when she delivered them; there was no guaranteed amount of work. She did not get paid holidays and was entitled to work for other companies at the same time if she wanted to; however, she chose not to.

James argued that she was either a "worker" or a "homeworker" within the meaning of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, and that she was entitled to the minimum wage rate. The company argued that she was self-employed, and an employment tribunal agreed.

The ruling

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that the tribunal had been wrong to say that James was carrying out her own business. It said that the gaps between deliveries were irrelevant to her employment status, and noted that this was also true of many seasonal workers who were among those in most need of protection.

James could not turn down work at will, the EAT added, and could only provide a substitute if she was unable to work. It said the tribunal should have looked at the essential nature of the contract to see whether it was between two independent businesses.

The case was sent to a new tribunal for re-hearing.

James v Redcats (Brands) Ltd EAT/0475/06 ([2007] IRLR 296)