The Team

Tribunal decides self-employed hairdresser is an employee
Tribunal decides self-employed hairdresser is an employee

Meghan Gorman served her apprenticeship with Terence Paul (Manchester) Limited in 2013 and when she qualified as a hairdresser in October 2014, her employer gave her a document headed “Independent Contract for Services” to sign. The contract described her as a “self-employed hair stylist” or SEHS (although nowhere in the contract was that actually defined).

In May 2019, the Manchester salon closed and when that happened Meghan Gorman lodged a claim for unfair dismissal, sex discrimination as well as for notice pay, holiday pay and redundancy pay.

The salon owners lodged their response claiming that Ms Gorman wasn’t entitled to any of these claims as she was self-employed.

The case proceeded to an employment tribunal which was held in Manchester on 11 March 2020. The full decision of the tribunal was issued on 16 July 2020 where it was decided that Ms Gorman was an employee and entitled to the claims she was making. You can read the tribunal judgement in full by clicking here.

As we have seen with previous “gig” economy cases with the likes of Uber. Deliveroo and Pimlico Plumbers, the employment tribunal will take into account the reality of the working arrangements rather than simply accepting the terms of the contract between the parties. Much of their deliberations will focus on the control which, in this case, the salon exercised over the individual.

In its conclusion, the tribunal said that “the ‘independent contract for services’ simply does not  reflect the working  arrangements  which the respondent [the salon] in  fact required the claimant [Ms Gorman] to adhere to and the obligations and restrictions placed upon the claimant [Ms Gorman] by the respondent [the salon”]. The tribunal also said it was apparent to them that “the claimant’s [Ms Gorman’s] day-to-day work and working arrangements were controlled by Ms Clark, the manager of the respondent’s Salon”.

In support of their findings, the tribunal cited a range of controlling factors, such as:

  • The Salon determined Ms Gorman’s hours of work (when the Salon was open)
  • If the respondent wanted time off, she had to give notice
  • The Salon set the prices customers paid for the work carried out by Ms Gorman but she didn’t receive 100% of the money received (67% was deducted)
  • The Salon decided the clients whose hair Ms Gorman would do
  • The Salon controlled Ms Gorman’s appearance, requiring her to wear black clothing when she was at work
  • The Salon sometimes offered discounts for certain types of work. Ms Gorman had no say in having to work for a lesser amount
  • Clients belonged to the Salon and not Ms Gorman and the client list could only be accessed using a PIN and this was controlled by the Salon
  • Ms Gorman wasn’t given a list of clients when the Salon closed

“The Tribunal concluded that this was not a case of the respondent permitting the claimant to use its Salon and/or facilities to operate a business on her own account.”

These types of contracts are used widely in the hairdressing industry and the decision in this tribunal is another nail in the coffin for the “gig” economy where individuals are styled as self-employed when, in fact, almost every facet of the work they do is controlled by the employer.

It remains to be seen if this case will be appealed. If it is, we’ll let you know the outcome.