Conroy v Scottish Football Association

s a football referee an employee under the ERA 1996?  In short, no – this time it’s the ref who has been given a red card.

The Claimant, a football referee, lodged a claim of unfair dismissal, age discrimination and holiday pay.  Mr Conroy argued that he was an employee of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) within the meaning of section 230(1) Employment Rights Act 1996.

In considering this point, the Employment Judge (EJ) rejected the submission on behalf of Mr Conroy that it is irrelevant whether or not the Respondent had to offer work if available, and Mr Conroy was required to accept work if offered. She found there was no obligation on the Respondent to offer work. Further, Mr Conroy was under no obligation to accept work if and when it was offered to him. While it was expected that matches would be offered and accepted, there was no obligation to do so.

The EJ did find 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 a match. However, there were 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 and other paraphernalia, his right to decline matches and the SFA’s right to refrain from offering him any matches at which to officiate.
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.

  Chris Bains