The case has been carefully watched by consultants and freelancers for any precedents which could be set relating to mutuality of obligation, control, personal services and clearer definitions of contract of employment.
The dancer, Nadine Quashie, intends to appeal a recent Court of Appeal decision which reversed the Employment Appeal Tribunal finding where Ms Quashie had won her legal battle for employment rights.
Ms Quashie had claimed that she was wrongly dismissed from Stringfellows, whereas the club had argued that she had paid the club to perform there in return for payment from members of the audience.
Last year the EAT confirmed that Ms Quashie had satisfied the minimum requirements for a contract of employment to exist; namely, there was an element of control and personal service and in particular there was a mutual obligation between Ms Quashie and Stringfellows to provide and do work. The decision went on to find that Ms Quashie was an employee on each night that she worked at the club and that there was also an ‘umbrella contract’ between these periods.
Lord Justice Elias in the Court of Appeal disagreed with the EAT’s conclusion and upheld an appeal by Stringfellows, restoring the original Employment Tribunal finding that Ms Quashie was not an ‘employee’.
In reaching his decision, Lord Justice Elias accepted that despite the Tribunal confusing the concept of mutual obligations, the Tribunal was correct in finding there was a contract in existence between the parties. In considering the nature of the contractual obligations, however, Lord Justice Elias, with the agreement of Lord Justices Ward and Pitchford, found that there were not sufficient obligations to create a contract of employment.
Lawyers representing Ms Quashie said that the judgment was a disappointment both for their client and the industry as a whole. Ms Quashie was believed to be the first dancer to have succeeded in claiming employment rights and protection. The firm said that this decision will have an impact on the employment rights of thousands of club dancers across the UK who will be unable to bring claims against their ‘employers’ despite working under their control.
Her solicitor Shah Qureshi of Bindmans LLP said: “Nadine is extremely disappointed both for herself and the thousands of dancers that could be affected by this judgment. She is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court as she continues to be of the view that there was an employment relationship. She worked in exchange for payment, there were mutual obligations between the parties and Stringfellows exerted a high degree of control over her work.”
After the judgment Nadine Quashie said: “I am saddened by the judgment but will continue to seek justice and better regulation in the industry. The status quo where dancers are denied their basic employment rights cannot continue. I was obliged to attend work and Stringfellows were obliged to pay me. I think it is common sense that I was employed by them.”
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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2013