Employment Appeal Tribunal Case

Employment Appeal Tribunal Determines Volunteer in the Coastal Rescue Service was a Worker for Paid Activities he Personally Performed

Get Advice From Employment Lawyers

Send us a confidential message. Our initial call is always a no-obligation consultation.

Background Law

There are three statuses in employment law, namely self-employed, worker and employee.

Those who are self-employed have the least employment rights (however that doesn’t mean they have no rights at all. For example, the definition of employee for the purposes of discrimination is wide enough to include some people who are self-employed), workers have more employment rights (such as the right to be accompanied at a disciplinary hearing) and employees have the most employment rights. Employees are also workers, so there is overlap between worker status and employee status in particular.

Status can only be definitively identified by a court and courts will look at the relationship both in writing and in practice. Decisions on status are made on a case-by-case basis and are subjective in nature.

Whilst determining worker status is a subjective decision, and the courts can take into account an unlimited number of factors, case law highlights factors that heavily influence determining worker status, namely:

  1. Personal Service – the extent to which the individual is required to perform their work personally to the organisation;
  2. Control – This includes the power of deciding the thing to be done, the way in which it shall be done, the time and place where it should be done; and
  3. Mutuality of Obligation – The obligation on the organisation to provide work and the obligation on an individual to accept that work.


Mr Martin Groom (Claimant), was engaged with the Coastguard Rescue Service (CRS) under a volunteer agreement, as a Coastal Rescue Officer from December 1985, and then a Station Officer from 2011. On 15 May 2020, the Claimant was invited to a disciplinary hearing, following which his membership of the CRS was terminated with immediate effect. He brought a claim in relation to the right to be accompanied at a disciplinary hearing (which is a right only employees and workers have, not those who a self-employed).

The Employment Tribunal (ET) took the view, upon reviewing the relevant documentation, that the Claimant was not a worker because there was no contract between the Claimant and the Respondent when he attended an activity.

The Claimant lodged an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). The EAT overturned the ET’s decision in part, concluding that a contract came into effect every time the Claimant carried out an activity with the promise of remuneration. This case was remitted to the ET for whether a contract existed when the Claimant carried out unpaid activities.


This case illustrates that even if an individual is engaged in a volunteer agreement, if they carry out an activity with the promise of remuneration then there is a chance they could be interpreted as a worker and so will be entitled to the rights attached to worker status (such rights include but are not limited to written particulars of employment, payslips, holiday pay (at least the statutory minimum which is 20 days plus public holidays), rest breaks pursuant to the working time regulations (i.e. at least one rest break of 20 minutes if they are working more than 6 hours in a day) and the right not to be discriminated against). Organisations should be mindful of this if they are considering paying volunteers for carrying out activities.

Zahid Reza

Employment Solicitor