Should a football referee be considered an employee under the Employment Rights Act 1996?

No, according to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, in the recent case of Conroy v the Scottish Football Association.


In this case Mr Conroy, the football referee, raised an issue about his employee status within the Scottish Football Association. The Scottish Football Association argued that he was self-employed and not an employee, arguing amongst other things that he purchased his own whistles, flags and notebooks.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed that he was not an employee for the purposes of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

He was, however, held to be a ‘worker’ for the purposes of the Working Time Regulations 1998 and an ’employee’ for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 (where there is a different definition). This meant that he could still bring claims for holiday pay and age discrimination, but not for unfair dismissal.

Implications for businesses

Whilst the employer scored on the unfair dismissal claim, the overall result was 2-1 to the employee, who was able to maintain his working time and discrimination claims. Although not goal-post moving, this case shows there is no level playing field when it comes to employment status.

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Updates: For employers: Grievances | Tribunals | For employees: Grievances and raising your complaint | Tribunals |

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