Checking Your Employment Rights

Your ’employment status’ is your legal status at work.  It is important as it affects your legal rights, what you’re entitled to, and what can be expected of you.

Both you and your employer need to know your rights and responsibilities, so it’s important to be sure of your employment status.

You might have something in writing from your employer that suggests what your employment status is. However, the way you and your employer work together in practice is ultimately what will determine your employment status for employment rights purposes.

There are three main types of employment status:

  • Worker
  • Employee
  • Self-employed.

Your employment status can be defined by

  • How dependent you are on your employer for work
  • How much control your employer has over you and your work
  • Whether you are expected to carry out the work yourself.


You’re more likely to be classed as a worker if:

  • Your work for your employer is more casual or ad hoc, for example your work is less structured or not regular
  • You’re employed to do the work yourself
  • You’re not offered regular or guaranteed hours by your employer
  • You have very little obligation to make yourself available for work, but should do work you’ve agreed to.

As a worker, you have rights including:

  • Written terms (a ‘written statement of employment particulars’) outlining your job rights and responsibilities
  • National Minimum Wage
  • Paid holiday
  • Payslips
  • Protection for ‘whistleblowing’
  • Protection against unlawful discrimination
  • Not being treated unfairly if you work part time.

You may also be entitled to things like sick pay and maternity/ paternity/ adoption pay, if you meet the eligibility criteria.

As a worker you also have protection under the law if you raise concerns about health and safety issues at work.


You’re more likely to be classed as an employee if:

  • Your employer, manager or supervisor is in charge of your workload and how your work should be done
  • You’re required to work regularly unless you’re on leave
  • You can expect work to be consistently available
  • You cannot refuse to do the work
  • You’re employed to do the work yourself.

Employees have all the rights that Workers do, as well as extra rights and responsibilities, including:

  • Parental leave and pay
  • Shared Parental Leave and pay
  • Maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay
  • Parental bereavement leave and pay
  • Time off for dependents
  • Time off for public duties
  • Redundancy pay after 2 years’ continuous service
  • Being able to claim unfair dismissal after 2 years’ continuous service
  • Getting the minimum notice period if dismissed or made redundant
  • The right to flexible working requests
  • Protection against dismissal or suffering any detriment if taking action over a health and safety issue.

As an Employee, you also have protection under the law if you raise concerns about health and safety issues at work.


You’re more likely to be classed as self-employed if you:

  • are responsible for how and when you work
  • are the owner of a company or are a freelancer
  • invoice for your pay instead of getting a wage
  • get contracts to provide services for clients
  • are able to send someone else to do the work for you, if appropriate
  • are able to work for different clients and charge different fees.

If you’re self-employed you have some rights including:

  • protection for your health and safety on a client’s premises
  • protection against discrimination.

You do not have the same rights and responsibilities as Employees or Workers.

Contractors and Freelancers

If you are getting work through an agency, you might be given a contract for services and be called a contractor.

In this case you might be classed as Self-employed, Worker or Employee so it’s a good idea to check.

If your employment status is not clear

It might not be clear from the type of agreement you have, or the nature of your working relationship, whether you have Worker, Employee or Self-employed employment status.

For example, you might have a written contract which says you’re self-employed, but in reality you have less control over how, when and whether you work, meaning you’re more likely to be a Worker or an Employee.

Employment status for tax purposes

Your employment status for tax purposes is not the same as your employment status for employment rights purposes.

You can use HMRC’s ’employment status for tax’ tool (see Resources section below) to check your employment status for tax purposes.

Next steps

Take a look at the resource available from ACAS on checking your employment rights to guide you in more detail, or read the article ‘What’s the difference between Employed and Self-Employed PAs?’

Part of
Last Updated
23 May 2024
First Published
01 April 2022
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Please note that the information contained in this Handbook is provided for guidance purposes only. Every reasonable effort is made to make the information accurate and up to date, but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by Self Directed Support Scotland or any other contributing party.

The information does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal and professional advice from a lawyer about employment law matters, or an accountant/ tax specialist about taxation matters, and from HMRC and your insurers. You should not rely solely on the information in this Handbook. Support organisations listed in this Handbook can help you find appropriate sources of advice.