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The Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled that a lap dancer described as being self-employed and working intermittently was an employee.

This case concerned a lap dancer who worked under various contractual documents several of which she had not seen. The relationship between her and the lap dancing club was generally understood in the industry to be one of self-employment. She was required to work two Mondays and two Sundays per month as directed by a rota and was required to attend weekly meetings. She was paid by the club by way of ‘Heavenly Money’ vouchers (a money substitute) that she received from clients and redeemed from the Club subject to agreed deductions. She could not take extended holiday and, if she was absent for more than a month, she had to re-audition.

After being dismissed by the club for misconduct she presented a claim for unfair dismissal. In order to succeed in that claim it was necessary for her to establish that she was an ‘employee’ of the Club and had been continuously employed by them for at least a year.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal, taking into account the specific facts of the case held that she was an employee. This needed (1) a “money’s worth for work’s worth” bargain, (2) control by the “employer” and (3) the requirement for her to do the work personally.

It was enough for (1) that she had to attend the Club on the rostered days in exchange for the opportunity of doing work for which remuneration would be available. It did not matter that she was not guaranteed payment or that she was paid indirectly through vouchers from customers. The Appeal Tribunal said that it could be enough for an employment contract that the employee agreed to work to gain experience or to enhance her reputation or for accommodation or payment of tuition fees to a university.

The requirements of control and personal service were found satisfied.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal also decided that the employment contract continued between engagements. This was because the dancer had to turn up for the weekly meetings and was subject to sanctions if she did not. She was also expected to attend for the Monday and Saturday dancing engagements listed for her twice a month.

For periods in between of less than a week, legislation provided for continuity of employment. For her comparatively few longer absences of two to six weeks, the Appeal Tribunal decided on the facts that there was an umbrella contract and her employment status continued while she was away.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal remitted the case to the employment tribunal to consider her claim for unfair dismissal and a tax-related illegality defence raised by the club.

Reference: Quashie v Stringfellows Restaurants Ltd

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