Sharps Furniture Chain Employee Takes Legal Action Over Employment Status

The gig economy has seen several companies face claims concerning an individual’s employment status, and Sharps have joined the list. David Lockwood, a furniture fitter, is preparing to take the bedroom retailer to an employment tribunal over his worker status. He claims he’s been incorrectly classed as a self-employed independent subcontractor and wants this corrected.

Below, we discuss why Mr Lockwood is taking Sharps to an employment tribunal. We also explore the different types of worker status one could have. Finally, we examine how individuals can discover the status of their employment and why this is important.

If you believe your employment status is incorrect and need help, get in touch with Redmans Solicitors today. We are employment law specialists who can answer your questions and advise how to proceed. Get in touch with us now by:

Fitter to take Sharps to an Employment Tribunal

Mr Lockwood, 58, has worked as a furniture fitter for Sharps for 30 years, installing cupboards and wardrobes. The company classifies him as self-employed, but he disputes this, claiming he’s a worker. 

This distinction is important, as workers garner employment rights that those who are self-employed aren’t entitled to. As such, he will take the company to an employment tribunal over his employment status.

The fitter reasons his status of employment is incorrect because Sharps dictate that he cannot work for competitors and controls key elements of his work. This includes the date and time of when he works and the fees he gets for completing jobs. 

Mr Lockwood has also stated that the company imposes financial penalties for incorrect work and attendance issues. Furthermore, taxes and workplace liability insurance are deducted directly from his wages by the company. What’s more, his representation for the claim has added that Sharps are allegedly telling customers he is a staff member before putting ‘subcontractor’ on his paperwork.

Because of the above, Mr Lockwood believes Sharps have utilised “unlawful loopholes to take advantage of hard and loyal workers”. However, the company have insisted it disagrees with the claims being made and will be “robustly challenging any legal action”.

What is an Employment Status?

Simply put, an individual’s status of employment determines the rights they have and the responsibilities of their employer. This is why Mr Lockwood is challenging the status he’s been given by Sharps. In the UK, there are three main categories concerning employment status:

  • Self-employed – Where one is an independent contractor, responsible for their taxes, and lacks the employment rights of those below.
  • Worker – Where a person has rights but less than an employee, including national minimum wage entitlements and protection from discrimination.
  • Employee – Where an individual has full rights under a contract of employment, such as protection from unfair dismissal, parental leave and the right to flexible working requests.

It’s important to note that just because an individual is labelled with a specific worker status does not mean it’s correct. When establishing one’s status of employment, the courts would look at factors including control, integration, shared obligations and economic reality.

If you want to learn more about employment status, read our helpful article.

How to Find Your Status of Employment

Should an individual need clarification about their worker status and want to determine which they fall into, they must consider several things. As mentioned previously, a label alone doesn’t guarantee one’s status, and each will have specific defining factors. For example, an individual could be:

  • Self-employed if they choose their work, invoice for their pay, can work for different clients and send others to complete a job.
  • A worker, if they work for an organisation casually, are required to personally complete tasks and aren’t offered guaranteed hours.
  • An employee, if they must attend work unless on annual leave, cannot unreasonably refuse work, receive holiday pay and lack control over when, where and how they work.

However, the above list isn’t comprehensive, and other factors could come into play regarding what status of employment one has. Despite this, if someone is unsure of their status, it’s advisable they seek legal advice.

This is because, as outlined earlier, each employment status carries different employment rights for individuals. Again, this is the reason for Mr Lockwood’s dispute with Sharps. Therefore, if an individual is given the wrong worker status, they may miss out on essential rights they’re entitled to.

If you are unsure about your employment status or believe you have been given the wrong one, contact us now. We can discuss your circumstances to help determine your status of employment and advise on your next possible steps. 

Redmans Solicitors has helped several clients with employment law matters and offers various funding options. This means we are best placed to provide the service you need. So, to begin your journey with us today: