Contractor versus Employee versus Worker

Employees, workers and contractors have different rights and responsibilities.

In order to determine your employment status, a number of questions need to be addressed:

  • Do you have a contract of employment?
  • What does the contract of employment state?
  • Is the contract clear about the terms of agreement?
  • Is what happens in practice different from what is stated in the contract?
  • Is your employer obliged to provide work?
  • Are you obliged to accept work?
  • When is the obligation triggered?
  • Have practices developed into a pattern over a period of time?
  • Are you told what to do and how to do it?
  • Do you determine what needs to be done and in what way?
  • Can you appoint a substitute or must you provide the service personally?
  • Are you obliged to follow/use the internal rules etc. of the organisation?
  • Do you use your own equipment or wear a uniform?
  • What are your tax and National Insurance arrangements?
  • Are you restricted in who else you can work for?
  • Are you penalised, for example, not offered work for a time, for refusing to work?

Legal definition of an employee

The legal definition of an employee, a contract of employment and a worker can be found in article 3 of the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996.

Basic employment rights at a glance

Right/Protection Employee Worker Independent Contractor
Right to not be unfairly dismissed
(after one year’s service)
Yes No No
Right to receive written statement
of particulars/terms and conditions
Yes No No
Itemised payslip Yes No No
Statutory minimum notice Yes No No
Statutory redundancy pay (after two
years’ service)
Yes No No
Protection against discrimination in
the workplace
Yes Yes Possibly
National Minimum Wage Yes Yes No
Protection against unlawful
deduction from wages
Yes Yes No
Paid annual leave Yes Yes No
Right to daily and weekly rest breaks Yes Yes No
Pension auto-enrolment Yes Yes No
Right to be accompanied at a
disciplinary or grievance hearing
Yes Yes No
Rights under data protection
Yes Yes Yes
Whistle-blowing protection Yes Yes Possibly
Protection under anti-
discrimination law
Yes Yes Yes
Statutory sick pay Yes Possibly No
Guaranteed payments Yes No No
Shared parental leave and pay (if
qualifying criteria are met)
Yes No No
Unpaid time off to care for
Yes No No
Right to request flexible working Yes No No
Time off rights (in general) Yes No No
Right not to suffer detriment in
certain contexts
Yes Possibly  No
Protection under TUPE legislation Yes No No
Certain payments on insolvency Yes No Possibly
Health and safety in the workplace Yes Yes Yes
Last updated: 22 September 2020