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Who is the employer?

View profile for Philip Richardson
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An Employment Tribunal has recently heard that an Oxfordshire multi-millionaire sacked two of his staff in a fit of rage after Francisco and Maria de Sousa served his chicken dinner an hour earlier than expected.
Mr Cash claimed that he was not the employer and therefore a claim for unfair dismissal could not possibly succeed against him. Instead, it is claimed that they were employed by the estate’s management company.
This case highlights the issue surrounding the question, “who is the employer?”
Generally, a worker's employer will be obvious, and can be determined by looking at the parties to the employment contract. Even if the worker does not have a written contract of employment, they may be a worker if they are performing work personally for someone else, and the contract could be implied.
An employer can also be determined by considering the characteristics of the employment relationship. A Tribunal would usually consider an employer as being the party who has the right to make the use of the worker’s labour, has the duty to pay remuneration, and has the right to exercise direction and supervision of the work.
Due to the complexity of these situations, they have to be considered on a case-by-case basis. However it is possible for the legal status of “employer” to be vested simultaneously in several different subjects. If this is the case, then they may be considered to be jointly and severally liable to the employee.
By employment law specialist, Anthony Fox