Consultant paralegal was law firm ‘worker’, tribunal rules

Tribunal: Evidence did not support claim of salary

A consultant paralegal was a ‘worker’ at a law firm and could sue for unauthorised deductions from wages but was not an employee who could claim breach of contract, a tribunal has ruled.

Employment Judge French said the paralegal had a “personal service obligation” to Newman Law and was supervised by the firm. He may have introduced clients, but he “was not carrying out his own work separately”.

The tribunal heard that Mr A Guler responded to an advert for a Turkish-speaking paralegal and was interviewed by the north London firm law in November 2021.

Judge French said she was persuaded by the evidence of partners at the firm that “the interview was such that they did not feel that the claimant had the appropriate skills to offer him an employed position”.

However, he told them he was “going through training and had good connections and, as a result, an offer of consultancy was made”. They agreed that Mr Guler would receive 40% of fees for clients he brought in.

Mr Guler received £1,000 as advance payment on commission. He started work at the beginning of December 2021, but was “disengaged” at the end of January 2022.

Mr Guler argued that he had been an employee and claimed both unauthorised deduction from wages and breach of contract relating to unpaid salary. The law firm argued that he was neither an employee nor a worker.

Judge French said she was “not persuaded” by Mr Guler that he had been offered a salary of £2,000 a month as an employee as there was no evidence of a contract of employment.

The judge said she accepted Newman Law’s position that it would not pay both a salary and a commission, as that was “usual industry practice” and did not pay any existing staff that way. She dismissed the breach of contract claim.

However, Mr Guler was a ‘worker’ under section 230(3)(b) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

“There was clearly a contract of service here rather than a contract for services. The claimant was not contracted to carry out just one task or work one file; he undertook work personally for the respondent.

“There was no way that he could have substituted that work. He had a personal service obligation and that is supported by the evidence of the respondent that he was supervised by them.

“They delegated work to him and whilst he introduced clients to the firm as per their agreement, he was not carrying out his own work separately.” Clients would be referred to his supervisor and she would delegate tasks to him.

The judge said Mr Guler was required to attend the office at 9.30am and the law firm had “a degree of control over the hours, location and work done”. He was “integrated into the firm” by way of his email address and work phone number.

“The claimant was dependent on the income he generated from the respondent. He was not working for anyone else during this time and relied on them.”

As a worker, Mr Guler was entitled to bring a claim for unauthorised deduction from wages.

Judge French said the paralegal had generated £1,092 in consultancy fees during his two months at the firm and the outstanding £92 should now be paid to him, along with £252, representing two weeks’ pay he was entitled to because he had received no written particulars of employment.

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