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Employment status: Football Referee

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Thanks to Jahad Rahman of Rahman Lowe Solicitors for preparing this case summary

Is a football referee an employee under the ERA 1996?

No, held the EAT in Conroy v Scottish Football Association.

The Claimant, a football referee, lodged a claim of unfair dismissal, age discrimination and holiday pay. The preliminary issue was whether Mr Conroy was an employee of the Scottish Football Association ('SFA') within the meaning of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The SFA argued that he was self-employed.

The EAT dismissed Mr Conroy's appeal and upheld the decision of the employment tribunal that he was not an employee for the purposes of the ERA 1996. However, he was held to be an employee for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and a worker for the purposes of the Working Time Regulations 1998.

The EAT held that the employment tribunal had properly considered all of the matters and found facts which could indicate employment, such as the provision of health insurance and the fact that referees are not entitled to send a substitute for any match.

However, the employment tribunal found other factors pointing away from a contract of employment, such as the lack of disciplinary procedures, the fact that Mr Conroy purchased his own flags, whistles and notebooks, his right to decline matches and the SFA's right to refrain from offering him any matches at which to officiate.

Lady Stacey concluded by saying that it is perfectly possible for a regulatory body such as the SFA "to have standards and rules which a referee must meet and adhere to without him being employed by it".