Independent Contractor or Not: Circus Worker Asserts Oral Contract

From Human Resources Director(HRD) (Australia), discusses a recent case in which a circus worker was found to be an employee despite claims by the circus that she was an independent contracdtor. Paulinet writes:

In a recent case, a worker who had been engaged by a circus company found herself without a job after her working arrangement was terminated by the company’s director.

The worker, who had initially been hired as part of the tent crew and later took on additional responsibilities such as driving vehicles and working in the canteen, believed that she had been unfairly dismissed and sought a remedy through the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

The circus company, however, argued that the worker was not entitled to the protections afforded to employees under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the Act) because she was an independent contractor, not an employee. This distinction is crucial, as independent contractors are not covered by the unfair dismissal provisions of the Act.

Analysis of the case

In this case, there was no written contract between the parties. The FWC examined the evidence of the contractual arrangements governing the worker’s engagement with the employer. It was found that:

“It is difficult to arrive at any conclusion other than that the relationship between [the worker] and [the employer] was one of employment. She was a labourer, working in the Circus’ tent crew. Her job description and daily tasks were set by [the employer] and MR Home Services. These evolved over time to include driving and canteen work. [The worker] had no control over her work activities independently of [the employer] and/or MR Home Services,” the decision said.

The FWC determined that the worker’s engagement was governed by an oral contract of employment, either initially with MR Home Services and later transferred to the employer, or always with the employer.

“What is clear is that at the time of her dismissal, [the worker] was employed by [the employer]. She was not conducting her own business and was clearly serving in the business of [the employer],” the FWC added.

Read the full story at Independent contractor or not: Worker asserts oral contract | HRD Australia

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