Worker - Employment status


People with 'worker' employment status have some employment rights, but not as many as employees.

What makes someone a worker

Someone is likely to be legally classed as a worker if most of these things apply:

  • their work for the organisation is more casual, for example work is less structured or they do not have a regular working pattern
  • they're usually required to personally do the work
  • they're not offered regular or guaranteed hours by the employer
  • they have very little obligation to make themselves available for work, but should do work they've agreed to

If most of these do not apply, someone is more likely to be an employee or self-employed.

Workers are sometimes referred to as 'limb (b)' workers. This term comes from the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Employment rights

Workers are entitled to:

Workers are not usually entitled to:

Statutory pay and leave

Depending on their National Insurance contributions, workers might also be entitled to:

Workers are not entitled to:

  • shared parental leave
  • parental bereavement leave
  • maternity, paternity and adoption leave

This is because they do not have to make themselves available for work. They can choose to take time off when they want to.

For example, if an agency worker meets the definition of 'worker' employment status, they would not qualify for statutory maternity leave. However, they can tell their employer they're not available to work if they want to take time off while pregnant or after giving birth.

Detriment related to health and safety

An employer must not cause a worker 'detriment' because the worker:

  • reasonably believes being at work or doing certain tasks would put them in serious and imminent danger
  • takes reasonable steps over a health and safety issue, for example complaining about unsafe working conditions
  • informs their employer about a health and safety issue in an appropriate way

Detriment means someone experiences one or both of the following:

  • being treated worse than before
  • having their situation made worse

Examples of detriment could be:

  • an employer reduces someone's hours
  • experiencing bullying
  • experiencing harassment
  • an employer turns down someone's training requests without good reason
  • someone is overlooked for promotions or development opportunities

Detriment and dismissal

Although a worker cannot claim unfair dismissal, being dismissed is a form of detriment.

Instead of unfair dismissal, a worker could make an employment tribunal claim for suffering detriment. However, they could only recover certain losses caused by their employer.

Get more advice and support

If you have any questions about employment status, contact the Acas helpline.

You can also read GOV.UK guidance on employment status and employment rights.

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