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HMRC internal manual

National Minimum Wage Manual

Status: Example of court consideration: 4

Edmonds v Lawson (2000) ICR 567, Court of Appeal

This case concerned Ms Edmonds, a pupil barrister who claimed that she was entitled to the minimum wage on the basis that she had entered into or worked under a contract of apprenticeship: the requirement of being a “worker” and for present purposes that she was a person who entered into or worked under a “contract of employment” were satisfied; that such a contract was defined by section 54(2) as a contract of service or apprenticeship. Before the High Court, the claimant was successful in her argument that she had entered into or worked under a contract of apprenticeship, but this ruling was later overturned by the Court of Appeal.

The High Court held that the contract was a “contract of apprenticeship”. The Court of Appeal held that this was wrong and that pupillage was a contract of education and training. If however, a pupil is contracted to undertake any tasks that go beyond education and training, the pupillage may be construed as a contract of apprenticeship.

The court considered that the arrangement lacked the characteristics of a commercial contract (i.e. no payment on either side; that it was voluntary and gratuitous by chambers to provide education and training; that there was doubt as to who, on chambers’ side had entered into the arrangement; that, given the regulatory materials, a contract was unnecessary, the Bar’s disciplinary machinery providing a pupil with ample redress were chambers to renege on the arrangement.

On the question of consideration, the court referred to the argument that while chambers undertook to provide a closely prescribed curriculum of education and training the pupil no longer paid any fee and, in the court’s view, did not undertake anything beyond what was conducive to his training or education.

The court concluded that the claimant did not enter into or work under a contract of apprenticeship or an equivalent contract. She did not meet the definition of a worker since the contract was specifically for training purposes and not to perform work.