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Does a lap dancer have employee status?

Distinguishing between a self-employed worker and a worker who has employee status can be difficult; however many employers accept that where employee status is gained where: 

  1. there is a contract which places an obligation on a person to provide work personally;
  2. there is mutuality of obligation between employer and employee  i.e. the employer must provide work and the employee must carry out the work and 
  3. there is control over the employee by the employer. 

However, is it safe to assume when one of the limbs from the above test are missing that the worker will be self-employed? 

This issue was recently dealt with by the Court of Appeal in the case of Stringfellow Restaurants Ltd –v- Nadine Quashie 

Background 

The Claimant, Ms Nadine Quashie, worked intermittently for a period of some 18 months as a lap dancer at the Stringfellows and Angels (together referred to as ‘Stringfellow’’). On 9 December 2008 she was dismissed on allegations of involvement with drugs on the premises. 

She brought a claim for unfair dismissal claim on the basis that she was an employee. 

The preliminary issue in this case was whether Ms Quashie was in fact an employee or self-employed. 

The Employment Tribunal (ET) decision 

The Employment Tribunal concluded that Ms Quashie was not an employee.  This decision was based on the fact there was no mutuality of obligation between her and Stringfellow because: 

  1. Stringfellow were not under an obligation to pay her. She was required to pay a fee to dance there. Some evening she did not earn any money at all due to the costs (including fines for lateness) associated with dancing at the clubs. 
  2. She did not work set hours. Though she was obliged to work, when rostered, one Saturday and one Monday every two weeks in a month and one night a week at Angels. 
  3. She provided her own outfits though she was required to adhere to a dress code. 
  4. She was required to complete a holiday form; however she did not require permission for the holidays neither was she paid. 
  5. She was not paid in between shifts and neither was she paid any sick pay if she was unwell to attend.
  6. Stringfellow did not pay her; payment was made by their customers. Ms Quashie took a financial risk dancing at the clubs as the amount she earned would depend on what the customers wished to pay. 

The ET concluded that the relationship between Ms Quashie and Stringfellows was one where she paid to dance at their clubs and in return she was obliged to follow their rules, some of which were dictated by their licence. There was no mutuality of obligations therefore she was self-employed. 

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision  

The EAT reversed the decision and held that Ms Quashie was an employee because there was in fact mutuality of obligation on the nights she attended work. Stringfellow were obliged to provide her with work and she was obliged to be paid for that work. It was held to be irrelevant that the customers were paying for her service. 

Further there was sufficient control by Stringfellow as she was subject to disciplinary regimes in the form of fines. 

The matter was remitted to the Employment Tribunal. The Clubs appealed the decision. 

The Court of Appeals decision 

The Court of Appeal overturned the EAT decision and concluded that although there was a contract for Ms Quashie to provide services personally, this was not a contract of employment. It was clear from the manner in which she was paid (exclusively by third parties) that Stringfellow were under no obligation to pay her anything on the nights she attended work.  Therefore she took the economic risk of potentially being out of pocket on a particular night. 

Conclusion 

The outcome of this case will come as a relief for employers who regularly use consultants to assist them on projects or peaks at work. If you need advice in drafting contractual policies or employment status please contact a member of our team on 01133 50 40 30 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk for a free initial consultation. 


Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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