Check your employment status

This advice applies to Wales. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland

It is important that you find out what your employment status is and understand how it affects your rights. 

There are 3 main employment statuses:

  • employee

  • worker

  • self-employed

If you're an employee, you have rights at work. If you're a worker, you'll also have rights at work but not as many as an employee. If you’re self-employed, you usually only have the rights your contract says you have.

Your employment status depends on what actually happens when you're at work. That might not be the same as what your contract says about your status. 

An employer might try to call you ‘self-employed’ when you’re actually an employee or worker. Employers sometimes do this to take away their employees’ employment rights. 

If you think your employer has done this you can:

Check if you’re employed or self-employed for tax reasons

The rules about whether you count as employed or self-employed for tax reasons are slightly different. You can check your employment status for tax on GOV.UK.

Check if you’re an employee

You’re an employee if:

  • your employer is in charge of what work you do and how you should go about it on a day to day basis (even if you’re left alone to actually do the work) 

  • under your contract you have to do the work yourself - you can’t pass it onto someone else

  • your contract guarantees you at least a minimum number of hours of work each week or month - and you have to do it

Check if you’re a worker

You’re probably a worker if:

  • under your contract you have to do the work you’re given yourself - you can’t pass it on to someone else

  • your employer isn’t a client or customer of a business that you run

You can check what rights you have if you’re a worker on GOV.UK

If you’re not guaranteed to get any work

This is sometimes called having a ‘zero-hours’ contract. You’ll be a worker as long as you have to do the work yourself and you’re not running a business.

In some rare cases you might be able to show you’re an employee instead. Talk to an adviser if you’re on a zero-hours contract and you want to use a right that only employees have.

For example, you might be able to claim unfair dismissal if you’ve been on a zero-hours contract for more than 2 years and you can show you’re an employee.

If you work for an agency

If your agency sends you to different clients, you’re called an ‘agency worker’.

Check your contract - you’re a worker unless your contract says you’re an employee. You can check your rights as an agency worker.

In some cases you might have a contract with an ‘umbrella company’ instead of the agency. Check your contract if you’re not sure.

If you have a contract with an umbrella company, you’re usually an employee. Find out more about umbrella companies on GOV.UK.

If you’re not sure about your employment status

Talk to an adviser if your employment rights depend on your status.

Help us improve our website

Take 3 minutes to tell us if you found what you needed on our website. Your feedback will help us give millions of people the information they need.

Page last reviewed on 03 November 2022