Employment status

Types of employment status

‘Employment status’ affects the rights and responsibilities of the employer and the person doing the work.

The 3 main types of employment status under the law are:

  • employee
  • worker
  • self-employed
Your employment status is important as it affects your legal rights and what you’re entitled to.


Someone classed as an employee:


Someone classed as a worker usually:

  • has a ‘contract for services’ (to do work or provide a service for a payment or reward), which can be verbal or written
  • is employed to do the work personally
  • has no obligation to receive or do work (for example, zero-hours workers who are offered work on an 'as and when' basis) but should do work they have agreed to

A worker has employment rights including:


Someone classed as self-employed will:

  • usually run and be responsible for their own business
  • be contracted to provide a service for a client
  • be able to send someone else to do the work for them if appropriate
  • be able to work for different clients and charge different fees 
  • have any terms set out in the contract with their client
  • have protection for their health and safety on a client's premises
  • be protected against discrimination
  • not have the right to paid sick or holiday leave

Someone who is self-employed and works for an agency might work under a contract for services and be called a contractor. This could mean they are self-employed for tax purposes but have worker rights, so it’s a good idea to check. You can also check your tax status on GOV.UK.

It's important to check the difference between being employed and being self-employed so both sides know their legal rights and responsibilities.

When employment status is not clear

There are situations where someone might have worker or employee status, depending on the work they do, their contract and the way they are paid, including:

  • agency worker
  • apprentice
  • director
  • employee shareholder
  • piece worker
  • someone on a fixed-term or rolling contract
  • someone who has no fixed work base (peripatetic)
  • office holder
  • someone who works in the ‘gig economy’ (for example they work through online platforms)
  • someone on a work experience placement (also ‘internship’)
  • someone on a zero-hours contract
  • volunteer

Even if someone in these types of work might think they have certain rights, it's a good idea to look at the things that actually indicate employment status. Both employers and the people doing work for them need to know their rights and responsibilities, so it’s important be sure of employment status.

If you’re still not sure, call the Acas helpline and we’ll talk through your situation. We can offer guidance, but cannot give an opinion on employment status.

Employment status
Employment contracts
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