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Are GP’s employees, workers or self-employed?

When you are a professional, as the term suggests, you have obtained the required standard of knowledge and/or experience in a certain field to be able to charge for your services. How one goes about charging for that service, whether via direct employment, contracting for services or being self-employed, is more diverse in today’s skills marketplace than ever.

In the medical sphere in particular, the construction of how one goes about getting paid for all that hard work can sometimes cloud the issue as to one’s employment status, something it is important to be certain of if problems arise.

One such instance recently arose in the Employment Appeals Tribunal (‘EAT’) case of Suhail v Barking Havering & Redbridge NHS Trust. In this matter the Claimant, Dr Suhail, worked as an out-of-hours GP who occasionally provided his services via a Cooperative to the above Trust at Queens Hospital.

As relates to the members agreement that defined his working relationship with the Cooperative, this stated that Dr Suhail was a self-employed contractor who would submit invoices for work done, handling his own tax affairs thereafter for the fees received. There was no obligation for the Cooperative to provide work, nor for Dr Suhail to accept such work when it was offered. Additionally Dr Suhail always provided his services personally and was not restricted from working for any other organisations. The good doctor was therefore free to market his services to whomever he wished.

The case came about as a result of Dr Suhail seeking to bring a raft of claims against the Trust. In order to bring these claims it was necessary for him to be designated as an ‘employee’ or ‘worker’ for the purposes of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Without such a designation, the tribunal would not be able to hear Dr Suhail’s claims.

In distinguishing Dr Suhail’s case from that of Hospital Medical Group v Westwood, HHJ Judge Peter Clark considered that although Dr Westwood had a number of other “jobs”, he had agreed to provide his services as a surgeon exclusively to Hospital Medical Group and was therefore found to be a worker. In that case Dr Westwood did not offer that service to the wider world as Dr Suhail did.

It was found then that in the absence of exclusivity between Dr Suhail and the Trust, that the Trust only amounted to being a client of Dr Suhail. In the circumstances Dr Suhail was then neither an employee nor a worker under the relevant employment law.


In the above case it was properly noted by the EAT that such matters are heavily fact sensitive and so must be examined on a case-by-case basis in order to ascertain what the employment relationship is, if indeed there is one in existence at all, as Dr Suhail discovered to his detriment.

Therefore if you are a Practice Manager or a Partner looking to hire self-employed GPs then ensure (a) that you make relevant enquiries as to whether the services of the applicant are available to the wider world and not to your practice exclusively and (b) ensure that the written document reflects any oral agreement. 

As always if I can provide you with any further assistance on queries relating to employment status or indeed anything relating to the medico-legal sphere in an employment context, please do not hesitate to contact me for a free consultation on 0113 350 4030 or samira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk.

Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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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