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HMRC internal manual

Employment Status Manual

Case Law: Lane v The Shire Roofing Company (Oxford) Ltd

[1995] TLR 104

Point at issueWhether Mr Lane was engaged under a contract of service or a contract for services.

FactsMr Lane was a roofer who had been working on a self-employed basis for The Shire Roofing Company (Oxford) Ltd since September 1986 on a particular contract in Marlow. That contract was nearing completion when Mr Lane at the company’s request left that job to do a re-roofing job on a porch at a private dwelling-house for which the company had tendered. The company had agreed to pay Mr Lane £200 for this job.

When carrying out this work, Mr Lane fell off his ladder and suffered head injuries. Mr Lane sued the company in a personal injuries action. In order for the action to succeed he had to prove that he was an employee working under a contract of service.

Decision In the High Court the judge found that Mr Lane was an independent contractor.

In the Court of Appeal, however, it was held that, in relation to the porch job, this was the company’s business and not Mr Lane’s.

CommentarySafety at work was an issue in this case and the Appeal Court considered Mr Lane’s employment status in relation to the single engagement only. Henry L.J. stated

“ When it comes to the question of safety at work, there is a real public interest in recognising the employer/employee relationship when it exists, because of the responsibilities that the common law and statutes …. places on the employer.”Henry L.J. adjudged that the company owed the duties of employers to Mr Lane. The distinction had been made between men on “the lump” doing labouring work and specialist sub-contractors and the judge considered Mr Lane to be closer to the former than the latter.

The case has little precedent value but illustrates the approach adopted by the courts in cases where safety is an issue.