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/ 14 Aug 2018

Employer’s Vicarious Liability

With increasing scrutiny over the work status of workers and independent contractors following high profile cases involving Uber and Pimlico Plumbers, there has been a notable ripple effect into other areas of employment law, most notably, employer’s vicarious liability.

As we know, the employment status of workers and independent contractors may be determined by a number of tests. Perhaps the most prominent of these is the control test. The control test weighs up a variety of factors connected to control of the employee, including what they work on, where, how and when they work.

Most recently the question of an employer’s vicarious liability has been called into question by the decision in Barclays Bank v Various respondents. In this case an independently contracted doctor was required to give medical checks to current and potential members of staff at the bank.

126 claimants claimed the now deceased doctor had sexually assaulted them during their medical examinations. The claimants sought damages from Barclays.

The bank denied the doctor was an employee, or operated under a system similar to employment, suggesting he was a self employed independent contractor engaged by the firm.

In making its judgement the court considered the control test. Barclays had control of the contractor as he had worked over a long period of time, accompanied by precise obligations specified by Barclays and the bank had considerable control over his actions. The judge ruled Barclays was vicariously liable for the actions of the doctor.

This follows the decision in Cox v Ministry of Justice, where it was decided the prison authority was vicariously liable for the negligence of a prisoner working in its kitchen.

If you need any advice on this legal area, please do contact the Employment Law team at Hanne & Co.

Daniel Gray

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