Autoclenz Limited v Belcher and others

29 July 2011

In this case, the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision that car valets, whose contracts stated that they were self-employed, were actually employees.

The claimants claimed that they were either ‘workers’ or employees of Autoclenz and thus entitled to certain rights including minimum wage and holiday pay. They were engaged under agreements that described them as ‘sub-contractors’. They paid their own tax, purchased their own insurance, uniforms and materials. Their contracts stated, among other things, that they could use substitutes to carry out their duties and that they were not required to provide services personally.

The Supreme Court held that the claimants were employees. On the facts, the Court found that they were fully integrated into Autoclenz’s business and subject to its control. In addition, they were required to provide services personally notwithstanding the substitution clause in their contracts. Lord Clarke stated: “I do not find that this clause reflects what was actually agreed between the parties, which was that the claimants would show up each day to do work and that the respondent would offer work provided that it was there for them to do”.

The Court clarified that express contractual terms may be disregarded where they do not accurately reflect the true agreement between the parties. Therefore, a substitution clause is unlikely to result in a finding of self employment if the reality of the situation is that no one expects that a worker will seek to provide a substitute or refuse the work offered.

To read the full case, please click here.