After a brief absence, the show that most people hate to love has returned to our screens for the summer – that’s right, Love Island is back!
The concept is simple, win the public vote by coupling up with other contestants in the hope of walking away with the £50,000 grand prize along with a string of after show appearances, sponsorship deals and a huge increase in their Instagram followers…
But, can the contestants actually be classed as employees as opposed to just ‘contestants’ on a reality tv show?
Does employment status really matter?
Under the UK’s employment law, individuals can either be classed as an employee, worker or a self-employed independent contractor, and it’s vital that the correct relationship is created. As with most aspects, the question of whether an individual is an employee or worker can be tricky to answer as the definitions have so far lacked clarity.
Employees have more legal rights than workers, so both the employer and individual need to ensure that they have the right status. Employees have the following additional rights compared to workers and those who are self-employed:
– right to claim unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy pay;
– statutory sick pay
– right to automatically transfer under TUPE;
– cover under their employer’s liability insurance;
– ability to make their employer vicariously liable for their actions;
– right to various health and safety duties
Employee or contestant?
According to previous contestants, there are a whole host of rules and regulations which they must comply with, including the fact that for 14 days before filming, they are not allowed to have contact with anyone, other than the production staff, by any means (even their phones or via the internet!). Contestants are also not allowed to wear certain clothes and cannot advertise or plug brands whilst on the show. More surprisingly, they are not allowed to be employed by another party prior to joining the show. They also receive a couple of hundred pounds a week to help pay rent and bills back home. This seems to rule out the fact that they could be classed as contractors but still leaves the door ajar for the employee relationship to be created.
To date, no reality tv contestants have brought an employment law claim in the UK, however the same cannot be said for tv stars in France.
Participants of a similar show, Temptation Island, alleged that they should be classed as employees and that their rights had been infringed by working overtime. In a ruling which surprised many, the Paris Appeal Court agreed and held that they should be classed as employees. The contestants were consequently entitled to a whole raft of employment benefits, such as overtime, holiday pay, wrongful dismissal, unfair dismissal and an extra payment for being illegally employed!
There’s no guarantee that the Tribunal would come to a similar conclusion in the UK, but employers, especially those in the media sector, should take note.
What should employers do?
Clearly it is important at the outset to establish the relationship that an employer has with workers. The main takeaway is to ensure that there are adequate contracts in place to establish the working relationship and terms of employment as if there is even a risk that a worker (or individual) could be classed as an employee then an employer could face a claim for the benefits that they should have been entitled to.
If you are an employer who would like advice regarding your workforce’s status or are an employee with concerns over your employment status, please get in touch with a member of the team on 01752 292201.