EAT rules in favor of worker status in Lancashire NHS case

Citation: [2024] EAT 4
Judgment on

Introduction

In the case of Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust v Ms R Moon, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) addressed pivotal issues concerning the employment status of an individual appointed as an Associate Hospital Manager (AHM) under Section 23(6) of the Mental Health Act 1983. The EAT examined whether Ms R Moon was considered a ‘worker’ under section 230(3)(b) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) and ‘employed under a contract personally to do work’ as outlined in section 83(2)(a) of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA). The analysis pertained to legal principles on employment status, the implications of statutory provisions on service contracts, and compliance with Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Key Facts

Ms R Moon argued that she was a worker under the ERA and employed under a contract to personally do work under the EqA, challenging the status given to her by Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust. The Trust maintained that the statutory requirement for AHMs to be independent from the trust put Ms Moon outside the scope of ‘worker’ or ‘employee.’ Ms Moon’s role involved reviewing the detention of patients under the Mental Health Act and was subject to specific Trust-imposed conditions. The EAT’s decision hinged on whether there was a contractual relationship and if Ms Moon’s status as an AHM precluded her from being considered a worker or an employee for the purpose of employment rights and protection.

The initial consideration was whether Ms Moon had entered into a contractual relationship with the Trust which met the requirements of offering and accepting, supported by consideration, and with an intention to create legal relations. It was found that while her role as an AHM was established by statute, the specific terms and conditions were set by the Trust. The role required adherence to Trust policies, training, and appraisals, suggesting contractual obligations beyond statutory duties.

Statutory Interpretation and Worker Status

The EAT applied established principles from the caselaw, including Uber BV v Aslam & Others, which delineates the modern approach to statutory interpretation - focusing on the purpose of the legislative provision. Thus, the purpose of the ERA and EqA—to protect vulnerable individuals in subordinate and dependent working relations—guided the analysis of whether Ms Moon was a worker or an employee under extended definitions.

Article 5 ECHR and Public Policy

The interaction between domestic statutory provisions and Article 5 ECHR was prevalent in the case. It was determined that the protective rights afforded to workers did not impinge upon the independence required by AHMs under section 23(6) of the Mental Health Act or compliance with the ECHR, thus upholding public policy interests.

Outcomes

The EAT concluded that Ms Moon was indeed a worker under the ERA and was employed under a contract to do work under the EqA. This finding was supported by a detailed analysis of the employment relationship between Ms Moon and the Trust, which extended beyond the mandates of the Mental Health Act. The EAT dismissal of the Trust’s appeal maintained that worker status did not compromise the independence required of AHMs, nor the procedural safeguards required by Article 5 ECHR.

Conclusion

The EAT’s judgment in Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust v Ms R Moon elucidates the complex interplay between statutory definitions of employment status, individual contractual arrangements, and compliance with human rights law. The ruling affirms that even roles with strong statutory underpinning are amenable to employment rights protection when supported by a contractual framework indicating a subordinate and dependent working relationship. For legal professionals, this case confirms the nuanced approach required when assessing employment status and underscores the principle that statutory interpretation should serve the core purpose of protecting workers.

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