Ruling on employment law

The court of appeal has overturned an employment tribunal ruling that workers supplied to the meat processing and other service industries were to be regarded as employees of the agency.

The employment tribunal had found initially, when hearing a case concerning a group of Polish workers, that Consistent Group of Shrewsbury was, in fact, the employer of some of its contract staff. This had serious effects for the company in its relationship with its workers over their terms of employment. The workers were employed at meat processing company Welsh Country Foods.

The case then went to an employment appeal tribunal where the original ruling was upheld. However, the Court of Appeal has now over-ruled the EAT, saying that in reaching its original decision, the employment tribunal had misconstrued Consistent Group's contracts with the individuals.

In a statement issued after the case, Consistent Group's solicitors, Blake Lapthorn Tarlo Lyons, commented: "This case is very important for recruiters. There is always a concern, when employment status cases are brought by lower-paid contract and temporary workers (perhaps as in this case with union support), that the tribunal may ignore the evidence and be swayed by emotional factors to find in favour of apparently exploited contract staff.

"In this case, the Court of Appeal has reminded tribunals of the need to give due consideration to the evidence that is presented, including the contracts and related paperwork and evidence about how the arrangements actually operate, before giving individuals employment rights."

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