Workers: what are they and what rights do they have?

Last updated: 05 Mar 2020

Worker is a broad employment status, which includes some legal rights but fewer than an employee has.

A worker does not necessarily meet all the tests for being an employee and is not genuinely self-employed.

The definition of a worker under the employment rights act is someone who works under a contract of employment or “any other contract… whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual”.

Different definitions are used in the Equality Act and in respect of whistleblowing legislation, but the broad effect is the same.

The Employment Rights Act definition includes people who provide work personally under a contract, where they are not genuinely operating as self-employed, even if they are not deemed to have full employee status.

It also includes most freelancers, consultants, interns, sessional or casual workers, agency workers and those on zero-hours contracts.

All these people may be working with a greater degree of flexibility than in the traditional employee relationship, but are still working personally for someone else and cannot be said to be in business on their own account.

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