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In a case that bucks the trend on employment status, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has found for the employer in Hafal Ltd v Lane-Angell. The EAT found that an umbrella contract of employment did not exist for a claimant who had provided regular service.

The claimant was engaged as a member of bank staff as an "Appropriate Adult" (AA) providing support to vulnerable people in police custody. She had no guaranteed hours and would only be used if she was required and available. AAs confirmed their availability in advance, and a rota was then drawn up and they might or might not be called out, depending on demand, but if called they were expected to work.

A rule was introduced that rostered AAs would be removed from the rota if they failed to respond to callouts. The claimant failed to respond and she was informed that she would not have receive any more AA work. In order to bring a claim for unfair dismissal the claimant needed to establish that she was an employee, and she argued that she had worked under an umbrella contract. At first instance the tribunal agreed, but the EAT disagreed. The claimant's letter of appointment stated that she had no guaranteed hours and would only be used if she was required and available. The letter of appointment was unambiguous and made it clear that there was no obligation on the claimant to offer availability. There was no mutuality of obligation during the periods when the claimant did not carry out any work.

Take note: The decision in Lane-Angell is a useful reminder of the importance of contractual documentation when it comes to determining employment status and also that cases on employment status continue to be fact specific. Here there was no mutuality of obligation when the claimant did not work as her letter of appointment made it clear that she was not obliged to offer availability and she had no guaranteed hours.

This article is taken from HR Law - July 2018.