[UK-filter] Employment Issues - Where to go for help?
February 15, 2014 12:57 PM   Subscribe

I have had an accident at work through no fault of my own. You are not my lawyer - but I'd like some UK people tell me where to go and how to approach this situation.

I am not a UK citizen - though I am an EU citizen. The whole UK system has me a bit confused.

I will be heading to Citizens' Advice Bureau to get advice on how to claim sick pay but I wonder if there is anything else I should do? Anywhere else I can go? What should I document?

I am classed as self-employed, though my non-employer expects me to work set hours, has restricted when I can go on holiday/has to approve holidays, and has a fixed management structure set up to manage all us non-employees. They have me filing worksheets at the end of each month but I never know when my invoice will get paid. Upon asking I was told as I am self-employed I cannot expect to get paid promptly nor to get paid every month. Indeed, there have been times where I've waited two or three months for my invoices to get paid.

I have been part-time self-employed by them for 5 years and have never received sick pay or holiday pay. Turnover is pretty high - I am now one of the 'old gang' and I get asked to train newcomers. I have kept in regular email touch with my non-employer post-accident. I have tried calling them but no luck getting through.

My bad accident at work made me realise that I'm getting a pretty rough deal. I really need some level of compensation as I am currently unable to work through no fault of my own - but how do I go about this? I pay NI but earn too little to pay tax.

So, basically, talk me through the system and where I should look for help. Is help possible at all?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
While the Citizen's Advice Bureau is a good start, I highly recommend you telephone Acas come Monday morning.

"Acas offers free, confidential and impartial guidance on issues including:
employment rights and responsibilities
trying to solve workplace disputes"
posted by Vrai at 1:08 PM on February 15, 2014

The Health and Safety at Work Act in the UK places duties on employers to protect both their employees and also the self employed who are carrying out activities on their behalf. without knowing the specifics of your accident i cant say for sure but it sounds like you could have a very good case. The issues you have with how you were treated before this accident and the fact that you are self employed don't make a difference to your current situation.

I hope you have been in regular contact with a doctor and that you went to see a doctor immediately after the accident? I also hope that you didn't disregard written instructions on how to do your work safely or decline to use any safety related equipment that your employer provided for you? Not saying that its a dealbreaker if any of these things aren't the case but just that they would make things easier for you.

There are lawyers who take on this kind of thing on a no win no fee basis in the UK. I think the best thing to do, though, is to get some independent advice before getting legal assistance. You may qualify for legal aid although I'm not sure whether that's still available much after all the cutbacks. If I were you I would head over and ask your same question on the moneysavingexpert forums as there are almost certainly people over the with knowledge and experience in the UK on this type of thing. Good luck.
posted by hazyjane at 1:31 PM on February 15, 2014

Before you get onto health and safety, take legal advice on whether you are not, actually, an employee. I would also add your company sounds to me like it might be breaking the law and is highly exploitative, which you seem to know already.

To summarise: from the taxman's perspective, if your working conditions are equivalent to that of an employee you are an employee. There is no hard and fast rubric, but they look at things like being expected to turn up like an employee, working set hours, integration into the company, who provides your equipment etc. They also look at who else you work for.

So, a big question for you is: do you have any other clients? If not, your self employed status is a tax fiction. From a legal and financial standpoint, almost all the benefits flow to your employer if you are "self-employed": no holiday of sick pay or NI contributions save a lot of cash. The reduced legal obligations around termination, maternity etc are all in their favour.

If you do some work for other clients you still be considered an employee of the company for tax purposes.

There are free resources like the CAB and ACAS. There are listings of accredited personal injury lawyers on the LAW SOCIETY's site. A good employment lawyer should be able to deal with both aspects: determining your legal status as employee or not and establishing your rights under health and safety legislation. Best case scenario: you are owed a lot of back pay for holidays etc AND injury compensation.

Good luck.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:28 PM on February 15, 2014

Edit: If you do some work for other clients you MAY still be considered an employee of the company for tax purposes.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:34 PM on February 15, 2014

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