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Why is it important that a worker makes sure to sign a contract on their first day of work?

The importance of issuing written terms at the start of any engagement – be it for an employee, worker, or self-employed person.

There has been so much interest and hype in respect of employment status lately, yet so many businesses still forget to issue written terms when engaging someone to carry out work. Working relationships can come to an end abruptly and disputes in respect of status and unpaid wages often arise.

Danielle Wright, Associate Solicitor in the Employment Law department, recently supported a client with a Tribunal claim concerning this very issue.

The Case

Mr T (the Claimant) responded to a job advert on. He received a phone call from the MD of the company (the Respondent) and was offered immediate work. There was reference to work on the project lasting 5 years and the Claimant queried the amount of pay and whether there was a probation period, and he was told there wasn’t one.

On his first day, no contract was issued but the Claimant was given a new starter form to sign. Included on the form was an option to circle employee or subcontractor which the Claimant did not complete.

The Claimant fulfilled his role on the project and after two weeks went by, he was expecting to be paid. He was not. The Respondent tried to argue that it was because he had not given his bank details correctly. Other reasons after this were given and the Claimant decided to commence ACAS Early Conciliation.  The Respondent stated it would rectify the situation and pay the Claimant his wages but did not. The Claimant therefore presented a claim to the Employment Tribunal.

The Respondent argued that the Claimant was self-employed, and his work was of poor quality. They asked for the case to be struck out as this was not the first time a person had tried to argue they had been employed when they hadn’t.

It should be noted that the Claimant did have a CSCS card and had worked on many occasions as a self-employed sub-contractor before. He had no objection to working on a self-employed basis and would have done so had this been expressly explained to him at the outset. However, on this occasion he considered the arrangement to be that of employment. (1) because he responded to a job advert, (2) because of what he was told in his call with the MD and (3) because he was not asked to submit invoices but fill out a timesheet.

The case was listed for a hearing.

Hopkins Support

Mr T got in touch with Hopkins as he was unsure how to prepare for his case. He was also very worried that he did not have enough evidence to support his position.

After listening to Mr T’s Situation, and considering his financial situation, Hopkins felt it was not in Mr T’s best interests to instruct the firm to manage the full case including the hearing. However, instead offered ad hoc support was provided on a fixed fee basis for specific work that the Claimant needed help with such as the schedule of loss which we included an award for failure to issue a written statement of terms in accordance with Section 1 Employment Rights Act 2016.

The Claimant was advised to prepare a witness statement that told his full story. Further help was given in terms of the bundle. An index was prepared, and the Claimant was advised to include location records to show he had been on site every day for the two-week period (a further and different argument the Respondent gave for not paying the wages).

The Outcome

The hearing was conducted by video conference and the Claimant represented himself. The company’s Finance Director gave evidence on behalf of the Respondent. There were facts disputed however, on balance and considering the documentation the Claimant did have, the Tribunal found in his favour.

In its decision the Tribunal concluded:

  1. There was a contract between the Respondent and the Claimant, the terms of which were set out in the job advertisement and during the conversation between the Claimant and the MD prior to commencing work. The contract contained a number of express terms, including those relating to:-
    1. Hours of work;
    2. Rate of pay;
    3. Place of work; and
    4. Job title.
  1. In essence, the Claimant agreed that, in return for £130 a day, he would work as a joiner five days a week at the agreed location and at the instruction of the Respondent.
  2. There was no evidence to suggest that the claimant could send a substitute to work. On the contrary, the expectation was that the Claimant would provide his services personally.
  3. There was, therefore, a mutuality of obligation between the Claimant and the Respondent, in that the Claimant was required to turn up to work, and the Respondent to provide work.
  4. It could not be said that the Claimant was in business on his own account. He did not submit invoices for the work he carried out, nor could it be said, in the Tribunal’s view, that the Respondent was a client of his.
  5. There was no evidence of the Claimant being required to take out his own insurance or taking any financial risk in relation to the work he carried out.
  6. The Claimant was required to work the hours specified by the Respondent, at the location specified by the Respondent.
  7. Whilst on site he was subject to the direction and control of the Respondent’s client. He was provided with an induction when he started work and worked at a set location, doing the same job over and over again.
  8. The Tribunal found that the Claimant worked for the respondent for ten working days, over a two-week period, and that he was entitled to be paid £130 for each of those days, giving a total of £1,300. By failing to pay the Claimant the sum of £1,300 the Respondent made an unlawful deduction from the Claimant’s wages.
  9. The Respondent failed to provide the Claimant with a written statement of employment particulars, contrary to section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. As such, an award was made under section 38 of the Employment Act 2002. Given that the Claimant only worked for the Respondent for two weeks, he was awarded two of the maximum four weeks than he could have received.

Lessons Learned

This is a classic case of not being clear at the outset in respect for the working arrangement and issuing written terms of this effect. In this case the Claimant would have worked on a self-employed basis, but this is not how the role was explained to him. All he wanted was to be paid for the work he had carried. He wasn’t expecting to get anything more, but he did – a further award for not being issued a contract of employment. His compensation therefore doubled!

This claim could have been avoided, had the employer provided a contract from the start, but also its important for any employee to remember to  ask for your contract on day one.

What the Client had to say

 “I am pleased to let you know that I have won. I appreciate all the support that you have provided. Thank you very much.”

 Tribunal Assistance

Hopkins can help you with any Tribunal claim at any stage of the process.

We understand legal costs can be too much sometimes. Maybe you just need some support with key documents or the hearing itself. Whatever it is, Hopkins can provide guidance and advice where needed. We believe transparency is key so we can offer fixed fees for set pieces of work.

How we can help you

If you feel your employers have treated you unfairly and you would like advice on what to do next we offer a fixed fee advice consultation for £245+VAT. During this meeting not only will you get detailed legal advice on your specific situation but we will also advise you of any potential future costs, should you choose to instruct us to act on your behalf, and we can set up a flexible payment plan to suit your budget.

Contact us today using the enquiry form below or ring us on 01623 468 468 or 0115 910 5555.

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