Contractors beware: Working conditions can trump contracts in terms of worker status and IR35

Another recent Employment Tribunal decision reinforces the fact that contractors working in the gig economy will not always have their worker or IR35 status pre-determined by a contract alone, as working conditions themselves can often override a written contract when it comes to defining worker status.

Earlier this month, an Employment Tribunal found that an Addison Lee cycle courier should have been classed as a worker as opposed to an independent contractor, due to the nature of the relationship between the company and the contractor.

Mr Christopher Gascoigne worked for Addison Lee as a cycle courier for approximately seven years and challenged the company at the London Central Employment Tribunal, claiming that he should have been classed as a worker as opposed to an independent contractor.

The Employment Tribunal upheld his claims, with Judge Joanna Wade ruling that Mr Gascoigne was “expected to carry out work” for his sole employer, Addison Lee, “under it’s direction”.

As a result of this, Judge Joanna Wade found that a mutuality of obligation (MOO) was evident throughout the working relationship between the two.

The news, which follows a rising number of similar Employment Tribunal outcomes, reflects the fact that, as the same employment laws in terms of MOO underpin IR35, a contract alone will not always be enough to guarantee a freelancer’s IR35 status.

Contractors who do not wish to be deemed inside IR35 are being urged to very carefully consider the working relationship they have with the companies that provide them work.

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