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08/05/2012

Quashie v. Stringfellows Restaurants Ltd

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Employment Appeal Tribunal

In Quashie v. Stringfellows Restaurants Ltd (26 April 2012 ), the EAT (HHJ McMullen, sitting alone) held that a lap dancer working at Stringfellow’s well-known night club was an employee of the club rather than self-employed.

John Hendy QC led for Ms Quashie.

Although the EAT expressed the view that the case was decided on its own facts (not least because the dancer had not received or signed the standard form contract), the case will be seen as establishing an industry norm – in contradiction to the widespread view that such dancers are self-employed. Unsurprisingly, HM Revenue and Customs have taken a keen interest in the case.

Despite the many measures taken by the club to construct a relationship of self-employment, the degree of control, in particular by reason of the disciplinary regime of fines and requirements to attend to dance on rostered nights and to attend (but not to dance) at compulsory weekly unpaid meetings, showed that the relationship was one of employment.

The EAT held that the Employment Judge below was wrong to rule that there was no contract since the authorities showed that the dancer was required to perform work and was to receive pay (albeit that the fines and other charges might, on a bad night, exceed the pay). It made no difference that the pay came by way of “heavenly money” – vouchers bought from the club by customers, paid by them to the dancers and converted back by the club into cash (after deduction of the fines and charges) when presented by the dancers.

Breaks in service and the fact that the dancer could take time off before arranging a further roster did not defeat the existence of a continuing contract of employment. Stephenson v Delphi Diesel Systems Ltd [2003] ICR 471 and Cotswold Developments Construction Ltd v Williams [2006] IRLR 181 applied and were not in conflict.

Permission to appeal was refused.

[2012] UKEAT 0289_11_2604

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