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Employment Status: Salaried Partners

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Was it permissible to consider a partnership agreement as the starting point when assessing whether a solicitor was an employee or a partner?

Yes, held the EAT in Morrison v Aberdein Considine & Co.

The Claimant, a solicitor in a law firm, brought claims for unfair dismissal and a statutory redundancy payment which required her to have been an employee. The Claimant had signed a partnership agreement which described her as a salaried partner, which did not require the payment of any capital contribution towards the partnership.

The tribunal concluded that the partnership agreement truly reflected the relationship between the parties and that the Claimant was a partner, not an employee.

The Claimant appealed including on the basis that the tribunal had erred in determining that it must first look at the partnership agreement.

The EAT upheld the decision. The EAT highlighted that the label 'salaried partner' had no particular legal status. The EAT concluded that the tribunal had permissibly regarded the partnership agreement as a starting point against which it could test factors that were consistent and inconsistent with employee status. The tribunal was held to have permissibly concluded that the Claimant was a partner, although the evidence did not overwhelmingly point one way.

Thanks to David Campion of Atlantic Chambers, for preparing this case summary.