Horses for courses: the equine flu affair


Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash

Regular readers of this (relatively newish) wordpress site will be aware that blog entries dealing with employment relations tend to feature quite frequently.

In Chapter 6 of Introductory Scots Law, employment status is discussed i.e. whether someone has a contract of service (in terms of Section 230 of the Employment Rights Act 1996) or whether they are deemed to have some other legal status e.g. a freelancer or a casual worker which would mean that access to many of employment rights is simply not an option.

When teaching employment law courses to students, I often have to emphasise the distinction between contracts of service and contracts for services. The modern labour or employment market is undoubtedly complex (even fragmented). Many individuals may be working alongside one another but some will enjoy far better conditions of service because of their status as employees. For some individuals the most that they can aspire to is to be classified as a worker. It’s certainly not ideal, but it’s better than being someone who is engaged on a casual as required basis – with no employment protection.

You might wonder where on earth this leading? If you’re not a punter (seasoned or occasional), you might struggle to see how the recent outbreak of equine flu in the United Kingdom has got to do with employment status?  Quite a lot actually and it just goes to prove that every day is a school day – not just for students of employment law.

When casually tuning into BBC Breakfast’s sports bulletin today (14 February 2019), I learned something to do with horse racing and employment status: jockeys are self-employed individuals who usually take up a trainer’s offer of an appointment to ride a horse in return for an agreed fee. The jockey who appeared in the short news clip said that he was very glad that racing  had resumed after a 6 day health ban and that he could get back to work. In short: if he wasn’t working, he didn’t get paid.

Now, if jockeys were working under a contract of service (an employment contract), their employers would have common law duties to provide work (arguably) and/or to pay wages. If no work was available because of a  temporary problem (e.g. a public health scare), an employee would still expect to receive wages.

As I am now aware, the vast majority of jockeys (as genuinely self-employed persons) do not benefit in this way. It just goes to show you what you can learn from the morning sports bulletin. Maybe I’ll pay more attention in the future. It was certainly one of those gems that I could share with the students this morning … but then if I was a punter, perhaps I would already have been aware of a jockey’s employment status.

Copyright – Seán J Crossan, 14 February 2019

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A legal blog by the author of Introductory Scots Law: Theory & Practice (3rd Edition: 2017; Hodder Gibson) Sean J. Crossan BA (Hons), LLB (Hons), MSc, TQFE I have been teaching law in Higher and Further Education for nearly 25 years. I also worked as an employment law consultant in a Glasgow law firm for over a decade. I am also a trade union representative and continue to make full use of my legal background. I am a graduate and postgraduate of the Universities of Dundee, London and Strathclyde. Please note that this Blog provides a general commentary about issues in Scots Law. It is not intended as a substitute for in-depth legal advice. If you have a specific legal problem, you should always consult a suitably qualified Scottish solicitor who will be able to provide you with the support that you require.

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