Employee or not?

Photo by Olivier Collet on Unsplash

We’re nearly at the year’s end and, funnily enough, I find myself returning to where I started this Blog: a person’s employment status.

The person in question is our friend, Jess Varnish, the former British and Olympic cycling champion who took British Cycling and Sport UK to an Employment Tribunal alleging wrongful dismissal. Ms Varnish lost that particular round, but she has now been given the right to appeal against the original Tribunal decision.

Wrongful dismissal (which is distinct from unfair dismissal) occurs when a person has their employment contract terminated and such a termination is a breach of the contract. Such situations commonly occur where an

Only individuals with a contract of employment as defined by Section 230(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 can bring a claim for wrongful dismissal against the employer. Such individuals are said to have a contract of service as opposed to a contract for services.

If you are an employee you either have entitlement to certain legal rights and protections – or the ability to acquire these e.g. the right not to be unfairly and/or wrongfully dismissed; the right to a redundancy payment; the right to request flexible working patterns etc.

If, however, you are engaged (not employed) by an organisation, you enjoy none of these rights or the ability to acquire them. This situation applies to an increasing number of people who are engaged on contracts for services.

In January 2019, the Employment Tribunal ruled that Ms Varnish was not an employee and, therefore, she did not have a contract of service with either British Cycling or UK Sport.

I am definitely going to keep an eye on developments in this case

A link to a story about the Jess Varnish legal action can be found below on the BBC News site:

Jess Varnish wins right to appeal in British Cycling case

Former Great Britain cyclist Jess Varnish has won the right to an appeal hearing in her employment case against British Cycling.

Published by


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.

One thought on “Employee or not?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s