Worker, Employee or Self-Employed: Employment Status in the Delivery Sector

Dylan Loughlin

When it comes to businesses within the delivery sector it is important you are aware of what terms you engage certain personnel on. As a delivery business, you are likely to engage sub-contractors to provide a service as and when needed. There are 3 categories which each individual can fit into:

1) Employed.

2) Self- Employed.

3) Worker.


This is an individual employed under terms and conditions of employment (contract of employment). They are consistent and engaged under contracted hours and/or a zero-hour contract. They must be provided with terms and conditions of employment within two months of their start date and best practice would dictate the providence of an employee handbook.

They must be enrolled in a pension scheme, as per the Pension Act (Northern Ireland) 2008, and you are responsible for their tax and national insurance contributions. All disciplinary and grievance procedures will apply to these individuals as well as any social media and driving policies etc you may have in place.


A self-employed individual will usually, but not always, have their own registered business. However, the differences that should be acknowledged between a self-employed subcontractor and an employee are as follows:

1) A self-employed sub-contractor should be invoicing the business for the services they provide.

2) They should provide their own vehicle, insurance, MOT, Tax and goods and handling insurance.

3) They have complete control over the timing of deliveries. Whilst you can provide a recommended schedule for delivery, it should be clear this is only a draft and they can alter as and when they wish. This is with the exception of time-sensitive deliveries; you can dictate when and at what time these deliveries are to be delivered.

4) The must have an unfettered right of substitution. In simple terms, they are responsible for providing cover for sickness, holidays or any other absences. You cannot place limitations on this selection, as long as the individual chosen is suitable and appropriate. (Have the knowledge and circumstances needed to carry out the job to a high standard)

5) There must be no impediment put on the self-employed individual from working for other companies, up to and including direct competitors. It is not required that they do work for other companies however, they must be able to do so if they wish.

6) There must be a mutual understanding that you, as the employer, have no requirement to offer the individual work and vice-versa. They don’t have to accept it.

7) You can offer training to the individual, especially if they are delivering special materials, this does not void their status of self-employed.

8) It is good practice to get the self-employed individual to sign up to a contract for services which states all the terms of the agreement between the two parties. This will provide clarity as to the nature and obligations of both parties.


The main difference between an employee and ‘worker’ as defined in the Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 (“the Order”), is the establishment of an employment relationship. In simple terms, if they have a subordinate relationship with the employer. If they can demonstrate a level of control the employer has over them [NB 3, 4, 5, above] then worker status will be established.

It’s fair to note that a ‘worker’ as defined in “the Order”, is afforded the same rights as an employee. It is not enough to issue a worker with a contract for services, this will be disregarded in an Industrial Tribunal as the context highlighted above will be what is taken into consideration.

If you are unsure which category individuals who work for you fall into, please contact Claire-Louise or Dylan