Order Made in the Case of Simply Learning Tutor Agency Ltd & Others v Secretary of State for Business
On 18th September 2020 the High Court handed down its decision in the judicial review of Simply Learning Tutor Agency Ltd & Others v Secretary of State for Business  EWHC 2461 (admin). Justice Mountfield heard the case and ordered that the meaning of “employment” in Section 13(1) of the Employment Agencies Act 1973 (EAA) should be read to include work provided by natural or legal persons who provide services including tutoring services on a self-employed basis as an independent contractor.
The various tutoring companies who had brought the claim had argued that they were not employment agencies or employment businesses and therefore were not subject to the regulation put in place by the EAA. Their reasoning was that their business model did not fall within the definitions provided because where an operator merely introduced suppliers to customers or clients they did not do anything which resulted in the employment of tutors. They simply provided introduction services combined with payment collection and administrative services which would not amount to being an employment agency or employment business under the definitions provided in the EAA. This argument was found to be wholly unconvincing.
Justice Mountfield concluded that the definition of employee within the EAA was wider than that at common law, as it included both those who would be classed as employees at common law and those who would fall outside of this definition but who still offer their services in some way. Justice Mountfield stated that her reading of the definition of employment at section 13(1) of the EAA is that this was intended to include all situations where a business supplies people personally to preform work for a third party and that this is in keeping with the broad protective purpose of the legislation as a whole.
In summary, Justice Mountfield noted that “in short, where a business holds itself out as a ‘middleman’ between a person who needs services and the person offering to supply them, the protective terms of the EAA and the regulatory requirements of the Conduct Regulations will usually apply to the ‘middleman’ business for the protection of work-seekers, hirers and work-users” and that these tutoring agencies were no exception to this general rule and so the act should be construed accordingly.
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