Employment status

MU Logo


This is a short guide to your legal rights depending on your employment status.


An employee has the legal right to:

  • A Written Statement – this must be provided within two months of beginning the employment
  • Maternity/Paternal Leave and Pay, Adoption Leave and Pay and Paternity Leave and Pay, Antenatal care
  • Time off to care for dependants
  • Request time off to undertake study or training is introduced for employees working in companies who have an average of 250+ employees
  • Protection against unfair dismissal
  • A fair disciplinary and dismissal policy
  • Grievance procedure at work
  • Statutory Redundancy Pay
  • Time off for public duties e.g. magistrate duties; for Trade Union activities
  • A Stakeholder pension (if the employer has more than 5 employees)
  • An itemised pay statement

plus those rights that a Worker has below.

As of 1 October 2011, agency workers in Great Britain have the right to ‘equal treatment’ in certain areas of their employment. It will give certain ‘Agency workers’ rights to equal treatment for pay, working hours, night work, rest breaks, paid holidays; paid time off for ante-natal appointments; the right to apply for internal vacancies and access internal facilities; and give them limited unfair dismissal rights in relation to the Regulations.

NB: Often employers will give benefits/terms to employees that are more generous than the legal minimum entitlements.


A worker is entitled to core employment rights including the right to:

  • Receive the National Minimum Wage
  • Protection against unlawful deduction from wages
  • A minimum period of paid holiday (annual leave) under the Working Time Directive
  • Minimum length of rest breaks under the Working Time Directive
  • Not work more than 48 hours on average per week or to opt out of this right if you choose
  • Protection against unlawful discrimination (including less favourable treatment on the grounds of part-time status)
  • Protection for ‘whistleblowing’ (reporting wrongdoing in the workplace)
  • Statutory Maternity, Paternity or Adoption Pay (NB – not leave)
  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • Not be discriminated against unlawfully on grounds or race, sex, marriage/civil partnerships, maternity/pregnancy, disability, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief and to receive equal pay (with members of the opposite sex if you can show they are doing similar work of equal value)
  • Protection against discrimination for membership or non-membership of a Trade Union

Self-employed (freelancer)

They will not be entitled to:

  • company’s sick leave, company maternity pay or company pension provisions
  • the legal right to protection under internal disciplinary and grievance schemes
  • the legal right not be dismissed (however, the contract of service should contain clauses relating to termination of the agreement and time-periods)
  • statutory rights such as unfair dismissal and redundancy pay

There is, however, legal protection so:

  • they should not be discriminated against in the workplace and, if they are, they could make a claim to an Employment Tribunal. This protection only applies to freelancers who fall under Part 5 of the Equality Act 2010 – that is those who are described as ‘contract workers’ and are contracted personally to do the work i.e. they cannot claim discrimination against the employer if they are contracted for the provision of services and hire someone else, or sub-contract someone else, to do the work – they must do the work themselves
  • they are entitled to a Safe and Healthy working environment (as above)
  • they should be paid for the work that they have done.
MU Logo


  • What contract is best for the teacher?
  • New rules as of April 2012: Class 1 National Insurance
  • Changes to workplace pensions law

What contract is best for the teacher?

This will depend on their circumstance and objectives. Self-employed contracts provide flexibility and may have tax advantages. Employment contracts provide important statutory rights and there will be an implied term of mutual trust and confidence.

 New rules as of April 2012: Class 1 National Insurance

The social security regulations in relation to tutors/lecturers in institutions have changed in respect to those that teach traditional curriculum subjects with effect from 6 April 2012 (i.e. from the current tax year 2012/13 onwards).Prior to this date, if an individual acted as a tutor teaching music in an educational institution, then the social security regulations from 1978 stated that Class 1 National Insurance Contributions (NIC) were due if the individual in question was engaged to lecture for three days or more in any three consecutive months, regardless of their employment/self-employment status. These regulations have now been repealed and each case is to be considered on its own facts to determine whether an individual may be classed as self-employed, regardless of the number of days they are engaged in any period.Individuals will need to consider their circumstances before being confident that they are self-employed and the usual factors (as previously mentioned) will need to be considered to determine the status.

More information

Changes to workplace pensions law

Workplace pensions law has changed. Every employer now has new legal duties to help their workers in the UK save for retirement.

More information


MU Logo

About this guide

Below is a brief guide to being an employee, a worker or self-employed. Remember, regardless of employment status, there should always be a contract in place.

Are you an employee?

An employee is a person employed under a contract of employment.

There are two elements to a contract of employment: mutuality of obligation and control which can help determine your employment status.

You are likely to be an employee if:

  • The employer provides you with your work, plus any tools and equipment for it, and the employer decides how and when you do the work
  • You have a written contract. The contract is called a ‘contract of service’
  • You are expected to do the work that you are employed to do and may be moved to different tasks
  • You are paid a regular amount according to the hours you work and Tax and National Insurance is deducted from this pay
  • You have to work a set amount of hours. You may get extra pay for overtime and bonuses.

Are you a worker?

A worker is not an employee and is said to be engaged under a contract of its own kind.

Workers are defined more widely than employees and are different from the genuinely self-employed. The status of a worker includes individuals working under a variety of contracts. Employees are a worker, but employees have different employment rights and responsibilities from workers.

Workers are usually:

  • Agency workers (‘temps’) – the Agency will find the work and pay the wages and the Company who hires the worker will pay the Agency for the work carried out
  • Short-term casual workers – casual workers are not usually part of the permanent workforce but supply their services on an irregular or flexible basis or have a ‘minimum guaranteed hours’ contract
  • The company deducts tax and National Insurance contributions from wages (PAYE system)
  • The company provides any tools, equipment or materials needed to undertake the work.

Are you self-employed?

You are likely to be self-employed if:

  • You determine how and when you do the work within reason
  • You can hire helpers or replacements for yourself if you are unable to do the work
  • You pay your own tax and National Insurance contributions on a self-employed basis (by completing a Self Assessment tax return)
  • You are contracted to provide services to the client/employer over a certain period of time for an agreed fee
  • In effect, you run your own business and take financial responsibility if it is successful or not and provide the main items of equipment
  • You may work on your own premises and you may work for several different employers at one time

If you are self-employed, your contract is called a ‘contract for service’.

MU Logo

Case study

Lewis has taught part-time for two years for a music service (who are the lead hub organisation). He loves the work and looks forward to the contact he gets with other instrumental teachers he meets in the schools he works in. In a conversation with one teacher, he learns that the teacher has been contracted on a different employment contract from his one.

This means, for example, that the other teacher would be paid if they could not come into work because they were ill. Lewis has never been ill on a teaching day but he is concerned that he would lose income if he were ever sick.

As a member of the Musicians’ Union, Lewis approached his representative and asked them to explain why his contract appeared to be different. The MU rep explained to him that if he were to become sick,  he would be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. They also explained to him that because he had satisfactorily passed his probationary period, he had an entitlement to other employment benefits such as holiday pay, access to a pension scheme and Statutory Paternity Pay as his other colleagues did.

Lewis checked this out with the music service and, in turn, the music service recognised how important it was to clarify what benefits teachers had on their contracts and produced a clear set of guidelines for their tutors and a staff handbook.

What you need to know

It is essential that you are aware of what the employment status is of the music tutors that you are engaging with. This is relevant in terms of pay, the rights and responsibilities they have.

In deciding the employment status of an individual, a variety of factors and circumstances need to be considered and not just the terms of contract. Currently, there is no single test to determine whether someone is an employee, worker or self-employed. Factors to consider include:

  • Control
  • Personal service
  • Equipment
  • Financial risk
  • Basis of payment
  • Mutuality of obligation
  • Holiday pay, sick pay and pension rights
  • Part and parcel of the organisation
  • Right to terminate a contract
  • Personal factors
  • Length of engagement
  • Intention of the parties

(Cooke J said in – Case Law: Market Investigations Ltd v Minister of Social Security – https://www.hmrc.gov.uk)