Art history experts bring legal action against the National Gallery
20 July 2018 by Neemah Ahamed
A group of 27 art history experts who have been working part-time at the National Gallery for between 10-40 years have brought a claim to establish they are employees.
In October 2017 the National Gallery announced a restructure of the education department. Contracts of these lecturers were overhauled and they were replaced by a smaller team made up of permanent, part-time and casual workers. The lecturers argue that this was an unfair attempt to diminish their roles and reduce the pay and conditions of the remaining individuals. No consideration was given to the amount of time they had worked there.
The lecturers claim they:
- were paid via the PAYE system;
- had official badges;
- attended appraisals; and
- were prohibited from using substitutes to carry out their work.
Despite this, they were given no “job security or employment rights including holiday pay and sick pay.” The National Gallery maintain the lecturers were engaged on a freelance basis and offered services to other museums and galleries and therefore they were not entitled to these benefits or to claim they have been unfairly dismissed.
The preliminary hearing will be held on 23 July. The lecturers have met part of their legal costs but have now set up a campaign through CrowdJustice.com to raise £65,000 to cover the cost of the full hearing in November.
This case follows a spate of cases that have brought employment rights under scrutiny in the gig economy. The lecturers have said this claim highlights exploitation also exists in the public sector. The number of disputes are likely to rise as more individuals try to establish worker/employee status. Employment judges are looking beyond the contractual arrangements to determine the relationship between parties. Recently the judges in the Hermes delivery company case and the Pimplico Plumbers case found in favour of individuals claiming they were as employed as workers, not independent contractors.
It is important (1) to understand the terms of your contract and (2) to be aware of the ways in which the law can protect you from potential exploitation. For more information please contact Neemah Ahamed by calling 01206 700113 or emailing [email protected].
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