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Club Wins Important Case at Employment Tribunal: Unfair Dismissal Claim Rejected

The rather unusual circumstances of this case began when an officer of the club resigned from their position following the committee’s decision to reduce the allocation of honorarium for the officer’s position. This person then brought a claim of ‘unfair dismissal’ arguing that the club was in fundamental breach of contract by reducing the payment.

In order to succeed in a claim for unfair dismissal however, it was necessary to establish that this person was an employee of the club, and it is this specific issue, the definition of an honorarium in an employment context, which made this case so important. When the case was originally heard the Employment Tribunal decided that the applicant’s case be dismissed. The Tribunal determined that the officer was not an employee of the club.

The former officer lodged an appeal and the Appeal Tribunal stated that the first hearing might have failed to properly analyse the actual status of the applicant in relation all of the factors relevant to the position held. The Appeal Tribunal requested that a fresh hearing be held.

The unanimous decision of the second Employment Tribunal was to dismiss the application due to the fact that the former officer was not a club employee and therefore had no employment rights.

The conclusion of the Employment Tribunal was as follows—
The Employment Appeal Tribunal identified this case as being one of potential importance to clubs. We consider the applicants voluntary undertaking to be no more and no less than that which many people volunteer to undertake in order to assist in the running of clubs and societies to which they may belong.  The Tribunal does not consider the characteristics of the applicants relationship with the respondent to be one of master and servant, or employer and employee. The relationship cannot be properly characterised as constituting an employment contract given all the circumstances which we have identical and therefore the applicants claim must be dismisses.

The importance of this unprecedented case, to establish that the payment of honoraria does not constitute employed status, was significant.