Optometrist Mr M Slater took Basildon Visionplus to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal last year (News, December 19, 2003). He argued he should be treated as an employee because of the time he had spent working at the practice and the nature of how he worked.
Slater, a former Specsavers franchisee, had worked as a locum from 1996 to 2002 at Basildon Specsavers and other practices and then exclusively at Specsavers Basildon three days a week from 2002 until 2003. He said he was asked to leave by a new joint venture director. In December the respondent was asked to provide to the tribunal documents relating to rulings by the Inland Revenue on the status of locum optometrists.
Last month the team acting for Basildon Visionplus conceded that Slater should be considered an employee, it later conceded that Slater had indeed been unfairly dismissed.
Although these proceedings cannot be considered a legal precedent, it highlights the status of locums working regular days at single practices, their rights as employees and their treatment by the Inland Revenue. Slater said locums working for single employers should check their own employment and tax situations with their accountants.
He did not know what his tax situation would now be but suggested that other locums working three days a week with no other position should seek advice. He speculated that his employer could be liable for taxes over the period.
Specsavers Optical Group managing director Doug Perkins said: 'Specsavers is a tax compliant organisation and this case does not reflect the situation of self employed opticians currently contracted to the Group. The decision to concede was pragmatic and unrelated to the merits of the case and the case was never heard.'
He said the facts presented remain disputed. 'Conceding the case for practical reasons is not the same as conceding Mr Slater's claims are correct.'