This depends on the contractual relationship you have with your employer. The distinction is important because many important rights – such as the right to claim unfair dismissal or maternity leave – depend on being an employee. For other rights, such as the right to be paid the National Minimum Wage, you must be a worker.
All employees are workers, but not all workers are employees. The third category – the genuinely self-employed – have very few employment rights.
Every year court cases hang on the distinction between the three categories and unfortunately there is no clear definition. However, there are some basic principles:
Many people are happy to be self-employed and some occupations, such as journalism, are likely to have a high proportion of self-employed workers. However, some unscrupulous employers deliberately miscategorise individuals as self-employed to avoid tax, National Insurance Contributions and employment obligations, such as the National Minimum Wage or holiday pay.
Important case law, especially the Supreme Court judgement of Autoclenz Limited v Belcher  UKSC 41, makes it clear that just because signed contract documentation makes it look as if someone is self-employed, that is by no means the end of the story. And the subsequent Supreme Court judgment in Uber v Aslam and others  UKSC 5 says that employment tribunals must take into account the inequality of bargaining power between employer and employee, and must look at the whole context, not just the contract documents, to make sure the written contract document genuinely reflects what the parties intended the employment relationship to be.
Working out who is an employee and who is self-employed is contentious and often unclear. If you are unsure, you should contact your union if you are a member, or seek advice from Citizens Advice.
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