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Law for Business

Knowhow - guidance - precedents

06 SEP 2013

Workers and Employees – What is the Difference?

Pam Loch

Managing Partner


At first glance you could be forgiven for assuming that a worker is the same as an employee, however, these descriptions confer a different legal status on individuals. Each one has a different level of rights according to their status. 

So how do you differentiate between the two, and what are the main differences in their legal rights?

Main differences

Employee - There must be a contract of employment where the individual agrees to provide services or to serve another party. The contract may be oral or written.

Worker - There does not have to be a contract of employment, instead a wider definition applies.  Essentially an agreement (oral or written) must exist in which the individual agrees to personally perform work or services for another party.  The individual must also not be providing services as a professional or commercial business. 

When determining whether an individual is an employee an Employment Tribunal will consider a number of factors including the level of control that any alleged employer exercises over the individual, how integrated into the business the individual is, and whether a mutuality of obligation exists. This means that there is a relationship between the two, resulting in the employer being obliged to provide work to the person and they must do the work.


Employees are afforded much greater legal protection than workers, this includes;

  • having the right not to be unfairly dismissed,
  • being entitled to statutory redundancy payments,
  • having much greater family friendly rights (eg. parental leave, paternity leave, maternity pay, time off for dependents)

Workers (and employees) do however benefit from an entitlement to;

  • paid annual leave,
  • the national minimum wage,
  • the right not to be discriminated against under the Equality Act 2010.

Pam Loch, Managing Partner of niche employment law practice, Loch Associates Employment Lawyers and Managing Director of HR Advise Me Limited.  

For more information on Loch Associates Employment Lawyers please go to www.lochassociates.co.uk and for HR Advise Me go to www.hradvise.me

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