Waters v. The Mote Cricket Club  EAT 28
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has upheld a decision that a groundsman who was engaged to maintain two cricket pitches was neither an employee nor a worker, but was a self-employed contractor as his agreement suggested. As a result of this decision, the groundsman was not entitled to claim holiday or notice pay. This decision follows on from two judgments handed down last month (which we reported on here), in which the EAT also held that individuals working within the gig economy were not “workers”.
Mote Cricket Club, based in Maidstone, Kent, is an unincorporated club run by a committee. The Club has two cricket pitches and, between 2000 and 2016, it had employed a groundsman to care for and maintain these pitches. The contract of employment also provided the groundsman with residential accommodation at Moteside under a licence.
Mr Waters was a regular member of both the Club and the committee. He had sometimes worked as a volunteer or casual worker assisting the groundsman. In 2011, Mr Waters started a business, Green Hand Gardens, providing gardening and grounds services. The business provided maintenance for another cricket pitch.
The employed groundsman left the Club in 2016. It was decided that the replacement groundsman was to be engaged as a self-employed contractor, and this replacement would not have use of the residential premises in Moteside. Instead, the Club would rent out the accommodation. The Club subsequently engaged a replacement contractor.
Mr Waters entered into a short-hold tenancy of the accommodation. He both lived and based his business there, keeping tools and equipment in a shed on the property and in a shipping container which he brought onto the grounds.
The Club fell out with the replacement contractor over the contracted hours, and he was removed in 2017. The Club then approached Mr Waters about the work, and Mr Waters entered into a contract with the Club to maintain the two pitches. Mr Waters subsequently brought a claim against the Club, claiming that he was entitled to holiday and notice pay, after trying to renegotiate the terms of the contract. For these claims to succeed he needed to be either an employee or a worker.
The Employment Tribunal considered a number of factors and ultimately decided that Mr Waters was neither an employee nor a worker due to the terms of the contract and the level of mutuality of obligation between the parties. It also took into account that the work done for the cricket club only accounted for part of the turnover of Mr Waters’ business. Mr Waters appealed the Tribunal’s decision on various grounds to the EAT, including that the obligation to work and the level of control exercised by the Club was inconsistent with him being self-employed.
The EAT agreed with the Tribunal, and held that Mr Waters was not an employee. The EAT stated that, even though some of the work had to be undertaken personally by Mr Waters, this does not necessarily make an individual an employee. Mr Waters was able to delegate some of the work to someone else, and perform work for other clients whilst performing his contractual obligations for the Club at the same time. These factors pointed away from an employment or worker relationship between the Club and Mr Waters.
This case is of interest to anyone who engages independent contractors. Although every case on employment status tends to be fact specific, each new case provides businesses with more examples to draw upon when considering and comparing similar issues with their own arrangements.
When determining the status of a worker, the EAT has restated the importance of looking at the whole relationship between the parties. In this case, the EAT had regard not only to the contract between the Club and Mr Waters, but also his own company and the turnover it produced. In addition the EAT considered the level of control, integration and whether the Club reviewed the hours worked by Mr Waters. It is important to remember to look at all the circumstances of a case and the reality of the relationship between the parties, not just the terms of the contract.