UVW members working as counsellors for Solace Women’s Aid won a legal battle over their employment status on Monday when a judge ruled that the charity had misclassified them as self-employed independent contractors when in reality they were workers, under s.230(3)(b) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. This false status meant they had no access to even the most basic rights at work for years. Jana Haragalova, counsellor for Solace and UVW member, said:
“I am pleased that the judge recognised and confirmed our entitlement to a different work status but I am also saddened that we had to go to court in order for this to be rectified. It is sad to learn that Solace is willing to spend their charity funding on barristers fighting their own staff-women in low paid caring roles seeking recognition of their rights. It is not an action congruent with the female empowerment message the organisation is trying to project outwardly.”
The judgement declared that the UVW members are in fact “Limb B workers”, who generally work under a contract for service. The counsellors working for the domestic and sexual abuse charity generally had fixed working hours, were contracted to work for 46 weeks per year and never received paid annual leave while working for Solace.
The Solace workers are also bringing legal claims for backdated holiday pay against Solace under the Working Time Regulations, in their fight for fair terms and conditions. The workers should now be protected against discrimination in the workplace and have the right to organise through a trade union, among other rights. Beth Stevens, former counsellor for Solace and UVW member, said:
“I pursued this claim because I was unhappy with the way counsellors at Solace do not get the same benefits and entitlements that the rest of the staff team get. We were classified as ‘self-employed’ yet never received any of the perks of this employment status. It goes against Solace’s purported values to deny a significant part of their staff team basic entitlements such as holiday pay, sick pay and maternity leave. We’ve won ‘Limb B’ worker status which means entitlement to holiday pay. This is a huge victory, yet there is still a difference between the counsellors’ contracts and that of permanent staff. May this victory lead senior management to reflect on their approach towards their staff team and upgrade the employment contracts of all Solace counsellors. May the contracts accurately reflect and reward the true nature of the work that the counsellors do. I am deeply grateful to my peers for sticking together and pursuing this claim, and for the enormous work that UVW has undertaken to support us through this claim.”
Image: United Voices of the World