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‘Wake up call’ for private sector as museum guides declared workers by court

In a potentially ground breaking case, a group of museum art experts and educators have won the right to be recognised as workers in the first public sector case of its kind.

It is just the latest in a string of cases about employment status - including Uber, Hermes, CitySprint and Pimlico Plumbers - which have virtually all concluded with the finding that the individuals concerned are workers rather than self-employed.

It is being seen as an important case for those who have 'unconventional working arrangements' in a world where many people are now unsure of their employment rights and status.

What happened in this case?

The case was brought by a group of 27 art experts and educators who worked at The National Gallery in London giving talks and school tours, lectures and workshops. The longest serving claimant had worked there for 45 years.

They claimed they were sacked and that though they'd been on the payroll, were never given holiday pay, sick pay, pension or maternity pay.

The National Gallery in London argued they were all freelancers but the employment tribunal judge ruled it was 'unsustainable' to describe them as self-employed.

Workers not employees

Although the employment tribunal confirmed the groups' worker status, it found that they could not be classed as employees because they didn't work under a contract of employment.

This meant that although their claims for holiday pay and discrimination were deemed able to proceed, their claim for unfair dismissal was not.

'Wake-up call to private sector'

It is thought that the decision will set an important precedent for other people working unconventional hours in public sector organisations.

Adam Ohringer, a barrister specialising in employment law, said: "We have become accustomed to private employers denying workers their legal rights.

"This is a wake-up call to the public sector and, I am sure, the first of many cases in which public bodies will be challenged over the misclassification of their staff and the circumvention of employment rights."

A spokesperson for The National Gallery, which is considering its position, said it welcomed the clarification that the claimants involved were not classed as employees.

To read some of our previous articles on this subject, please see:

For help and advice about legal employment issues please contact our specialist Employment Law team or pop into one of our 11 local offices.

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