Employee status

Check your employment status

When it comes to employment rights, these will vary depending upon your employment status. Therefore, it is very important to be clear about your official legal status and the associated employment rights.

There are three types of employment status in the UK. These are:-

Many people will be aware of the difference in status between an employee and someone who is self-employed, but there is also a worker status. There is also a tendency to consider employment status with tax status, these are totally separate issues.

Definition of an employee

In the eyes of the law you are deemed an employee if:

  • You work under contract with an employer
  • Under the contract you are obliged to carry out the work, it cannot be passed on to a third party
  • The terms of your contract guarantee a specific amount of working hours on a regular basis

The terms of any employment contract should set out an employee’s:-

  • Duties
  • Responsibilities
  • Rights
  • Employment conditions

This is the most common form of employment in the UK and the one which carries the greatest number of employment rights.

Definition of a worker

Many of us will consider an employee and a worker as the same status, this is not the case. You could fall into the worker status category if you:-

  • Work under an employment contract or other type of contract but you are not self-employed
  • Your employer is not a client or customer of a business to which you are connected

Surprisingly, the rights associated with a worker vary significantly from those of an employee. For example, a worker:-

  • Is still entitled to statutory rights including national minimum wage, working hours and annual leave
  • Cannot claim for unfair dismissal
  • Is not eligible for statutory redundancy payment

Many people would see the definition of a worker as someone who takes on “casual work” with one or more parties. One of the benefits of being a worker is the entitlement to accept/reject offers from various parties with no penalties. This is very different to employee contracts which will clearly define an employer’s expectations and any restrictions on the employee.

Agency workers

One of the more common types of worker roles is that of an agency worker. In this instance you will:-

  • Be instructed to work for other businesses, where the business is a client of the agency
  • Have some form of contract of employment with the agency

Under this scenario you would not have a contract with the client of the agency. Indeed there are often restrictions/penalties to stop you “jumping ship” and joining the agency’s client. However, recent changes in employment law mean that those undertaking temporary roles may have additional rights such as:-

  • Access to information about workplace facilities and job vacancies
  • Use of workplace facilities such as canteen, nursery, etc
  • Access to same basic pay/working conditions as permanent employees after 12 weeks in the role. Unless your contract with the agency is a “pay between assignments” arrangement

It is important to be clear about your employment status, and your rights as an employee and a worker.

Definition of a self-employed person

The definition of a self-employed individual is fairly simple, someone who:-

  • Provides services where they have control over how, when and by whom the services will be delivered
  • Manage their own tax and national insurance payments

There is a common misconception that those working under self-employed status have no employment rights. This is not the case. A self-employed person is:-

  • Still covered by health and safety regulations while on a client’s premises
  • Often covered against discrimination
  • Will have their employment rights clearly defined under the contract between the parties

While there are some rare exceptions to the rule, those working under a self-employed status are unlikely to have access to holiday pay. In many ways the difference between an employee, worker and self-employed individual comes down to the degree of freedom to take on and accept work from other parties. The hedge for this is a reduction in specific, as opposed to general, employment rights.


We have covered the three different types of employment status in the UK. There will be occasions where different roles will crossover between these various types of employment. On the whole, we have employee, worker and self-employed. Make sure you know your employment status and your rights.