Some employers, especially in the ‘gig economy’, mislead ‘limb (b) workers’ into thinking they are ‘self employed’ or ’employees’ into thinking they are ‘limb (b) workers’ to prevent them from enforcing their entitlement to employment rights. A Parliamentary inquiry discovered that several companies even inserted a clause into workers’ contracts prohibiting staff from challenging their employment status at tribunal. While in reality this clause is entirely unenforceable, the intention was clear – to threaten and manipulate the workforce into accepting unlawful working conditions.
An individual’s employment status is not defined by the employer, or even by a written contract, but rather by the reality of the working relationship. If a court finds that a person who has been told they are on a zero-hours contract in fact has an ’employee’ relationship with their employer, they are entitled to additional rights such as protections against unfair dismissal and redundancy. Similarly, a person told they are self-employed may actually be a ‘limb (b) worker’. This was the case for Uber drivers, who were ruled ‘limb (b) workers’ after a four-year legal battle that was concluded in the Supreme Court. Unionised workers may be able to challenge their employment status in this way, but it is an expensive and lengthy process.