A RECENT spate of high-profile legal cases could spell trouble ahead for business who treat regular workers as self-employed service providers, a Hampshire lawyer has warned.

Laurence Dunn, a director at DC Employment Solicitors based in Southampton, predicts “potentially very costly implications” in how the courts and tax authorities will now deal with ‘worker status’ disputes.

Speaking at a training event held jointly by the Chartered Institute of Taxation and the Association of Taxation Technicians at Winchester Guildhall, Mr Dunn referred to recent cases involving Uber drivers, Pimlico Plumbers and CitySprint couriers, all of which were decided in the workers’ favour.

H urged employers and HR departments to heed the “direction of travel” and carefully review their contractor arrangements to ensure peace of mind and avoid the risk of potentially costly claims.

Mr Dunn said: “Both the courts and HMRC will be increasingly sceptical about situations where companies seek to classify people as self-employed contractors when in reality they are workers or employees in all but name.

“The distinction is vitally important because a person’s status directly impacts on the hiring company’s responsibilities for paying tax, National Insurance Contributions and holiday pay.

“The individual may also have national minimum wage entitlement, the advantage of working time regulations and other workplace protections such as anti-discrimination legislation.”

Uber and other ‘gig economy’ cases had previously seen individuals successfully claim the rights of workers against companies that were seeking to present them as self-employed contractors.

New legislation has also been announced, he added, that will bring more individuals within the scope of ‘worker’ or ‘employee’ definitions.

“If the employer gets it wrong, they may well be liable for arrears and penalties from HMRC as well as Employment Tribunal claims for arrears of holiday pay and minimum wage claims.”