Self-employment is where an individual is providing a business on their own account rather than working for someone else. Where this is genuinely the case the individual will not qualify for any rights that a 'worker' or an 'employee' will have.


However many people who are described as self-employed may actually meet the legal definition of worker or employee and so be entitled to appropriate rights. This is because tribunals will look at the actual contract between the parties not just the way the parties describe the relationship.


The features of true self employment include:

  • the individual can decide how work is done
  • hours of work will be decided more by the individual than the employer
  • no obligations to do work after the job is complete
  • there is no obligation for one individual to do the work
  • the person doing the work takes the risk of profit or loss 
  • tools and equipment are provided by the person doing the work


In contrast to this individuals who are said to be self-employed may qualify for worker or employee status where:

  • only the individual can do the work
  • hours of work are set by the employer and the individual is expected to attend in these hours
  • the work is controlled by the employer 


Tax status

The fact that an individual is labelled as self-employed for tax purposes will not completely determine the employment rights they may qualify for as the tax rules are different. However succeeding in an argument that you are an employee may mean that your tax status has to be changed.


Arguing for employment rights if you are self employed

It is open to any self-employed person to argue that they quailfy for worker or employee status when claiming employment rights. However your employer may react negatively so you need to proceed carefully if you are still in work. You will need to:

  • work out what rights you are trying to apply and whether worker or employee status is required - see spreadsheet below
  • check the way you work meets the tests of worker of employee
  • plan a way to approach your employer to ask for the necessary right - REMEMBER workers have limited protection against dismissal so if you only have worker status think carefully about the risk of dismissal.  

Further information on staus, rights and negotiating with employers is at:

employment status

employment rights

negotiating with employers

Employment Rights and Status
A list of common employment rights and required status.
Employment Rights and Status.xls
Microsoft Excel Table 30.0 KB

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