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LLP member was "clearly" a worker and entitled to whistleblower protection

The Supreme Court has held that a former equity partner of a law firm incorporated as a limited liability partnership (LLP) was clearly a worker and therefore eligible to bring a whistleblowing claim against the LLP.

Overturning the decision of the Court of Appeal, the court found that the LLP member fell within the definition of worker in section 230(3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, as she could not market her services as a solicitor to anyone other than the LLP and was an integral part of its business. It was not necessary for there to be an element of subordination in order for worker status to be made out. While subordination may sometimes be an aid to distinguishing workers from other self-employed individuals, it is not a universal characteristic of being a worker.

The court also shed some light on the meaning of section 4(4) of the Limited Liability Partnerships Act 2000, which has been notoriously difficult to interpret. It does not mean (as the Court of Appeal found) that LLP members can only be workers if they would also have been workers had the LLP been a traditional partnership under the Partnership Act 1890.

The Supreme Court's decision is significant as it means that LLP members will benefit not only from the statutory protection from detriment available to whistleblowers, but also from a range of other rights available to workers. These include the right to paid annual leave and the right to be auto-enrolled in a pension scheme. (Clyde & Co LLP and another v Bates van Winkelhof [2014] UKSC 32.)

For more information, please contact Nick Rowe at Maitland Walker.