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Case Reports

2016/55 New Supreme Court decision on the distinction between independent contractors and employees (NO)

Tijdschrift European Employment Law Cases, Aflevering 4 2016
Trefwoorden Independent contractors, Employees
Auteurs Marianne Jenum Hotvedt en Anne-Beth Engan
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    EU employment protection is usually limited to “employees”, meaning that independent contractors are not covered. However, EU law often leaves it to Member States to determine the meaning of employee. The directives regulating transfers of undertakings, collective redundancies, written working conditions, information and consultation, part-time work, temporary agency workers etc. are all examples of protection covering only ‘employees’ as defined by each Member State.
    Consequently, the interpretation of ‘employee’ at the national level determines whether protection in EU law applies. This case report concerns the distinction between an independent contractor and employee. The question was whether a support worker for a child needing extra care and support should be considered as employed by Ålesund municipality. The majority (4-1) found that the support worker was an employee. The case illustrates how the notion of employee in Norwegian law adapts to new ways of organising work and may be of interest in other jurisdictions.


Marianne Jenum Hotvedt
Marianne Jenum Hotvedt is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Private law, University in Oslo. In 2015, she got her Ph.D. on the thesis ‘The Employer Concept’.

Anne-Beth Engan
Anne-Beth Engan is an associate with Advokatfirmaet Selmer DA in Oslo.

    Article 52(1)(a) of the Romanian Labour Code allows an employer to suspend, without pay, an employee under a disciplinary investigation. However, the Constitutional Court has recently ruled Article 52(1)(a) unconstitutional.


Andreea Suciu
Andreea Suciu is Head of Employment & Pensions with Noerr in Bucharest, www.noerr.com.

    If a collective agreement grants older employees a higher vacation claim solely because of their age, a younger employee is entitled to the same number of days of leave.


Paul Schreiner
Paul Schreiner and Jana Hunkemöller are, respectively, a partner in Essen and an associate in Düsseldorf with Luther Rechtsanwaltgesellschaft mbH, www.luther-lawfirm.com.

Jana Hunkemöller

    A company had leased some employees from a temporary work agency between 2008 and 2012 to work alongside its own employees on a continuous basis. The collective bargaining agreement that the company was bound by restricted the use of temporary agency workers to situations in which the work could not be performed by the company’s own staff. The trade union brought an action before the Labour Court claiming that the company had used temporary agency workers continuously to a greater extent than permitted by the collective bargaining agreement and that the employers’ association, of which the company was a member, had breached its supervisory duty. In a preliminary ruling, the ECJ held that the Temporary Agency Work Directive (2008/104/EC) does not oblige national courts to refuse to apply national law containing prohibitions or restrictions, even if those restrictions were not justified. Having confirmed that national restrictions may be applied, the Labour Court imposed a compensatory fine of € 3,000 on the company and € 4,000 on the employers’ association.


Kaj Swanljung

Janne Nurminen
Kaj Swanljung and Janne Nurminen are, respectively, Senior Counsel and Senior Associate, with Roschier in Helsinki, www.roschier.com.

    The French state was held liable by the Administrative Court of Clermont-Ferrand for failing to transpose Article 7§1 of EU Directive 2003/88/EC on working time.


Claire Toumieux
Claire Toumieux and Susan Ekrami are a partner and associate with Allen & Overy LLP in Paris, www.allenovery.com.

Susan Ekrami

    An employee challenged whether her employer’s refusal to provide childcare vouchers during maternity leave was discriminatory. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) determined, somewhat tentatively, that where childcare vouchers are provided through a salary sacrifice scheme, it is not discriminatory for employers to cease to provide childcare vouchers during maternity leave.


Catherine Hayes
Catherine Hayes is an Associate at Lewis Silkin LLP: www.lewissilkin.com.

    Following the latest case law of the Supreme Court of Lithuania, it is not enough to state that an employee cannot work for a competitor during their employment. It is necessary to pay compensation in order for the non-compete obligation to be legally enforceable, because of the onerous nature of the obligation.


Inga Klimašauskienė
Inga Klimašauskienė is an Associate Partner at GLIMSTEDT in Vilnius, www.glimstedt.lt.

    In businesses employing fewer than ten employees, the rules on unfair dismissal do not apply. However, those on discrimination do. This fact made it possible for the 63 year-old employee in this case to claim damages, effectively for unfair dismissal. She had been dismissed following a reduction in the available work. She was selected for redundancy because she was less qualified than her colleagues. However, her termination letter mentioned that she had become “eligible for retirement”. This remark created a presumption of age discrimination, which the employer was not able to rebut.


Paul Schreiner

Dagmar Hellenkemper
Paul Schreiner and Dagmar Hellenkemper are lawyers with Luther Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH, www.luther-lawfirm.com.

    An employer that fails to comply with an occupational doctor’s recommendation regarding an employee’s health, as it relates to his job, is in breach of its health and safety obligations.


Delphine Levy Karcenty
Delphine Levy Karcenty is an avocat with Jeantet in Paris, www.jeantet.fr.

    A transferee cannot claim the value of leave accrued but not taken by transferred employees before a transfer from the transferor.


Amber Zwanenburg
Amber Zwanenburg is a lecturer of Labour Law at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam.

    An ‘independent contractor’ working for a company in a subordinate relationship should be considered as a de facto employee. In such a situation, the company and its legal representatives can be held liable for ‘concealed work’ and be subject to criminal penalties.


Charles Mathieu
Charles Mathieu is a lawyer with Jeantet in Paris, www.jeantet.fr.

    An employee who does not recover from illness during the calendar year in which he accrues paid leave (the ‘leave year’) and who continues to be incapable of taking that leave, loses the right to take it 15 months after the end of the leave year, i.e. on March 31 of the second calendar year following the leave year. If his employment terminates within that 15 month period, his entitlement to leave converts into a claim for payment in lieu, and as such, can be claimed by his heirs if he dies.


Paul Schreiner
Paul Schreiner and

Dagmar Hellenkemper
Dagmar Hellenkemper are Rechtsanwälte with Luther Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH, www.luther-lawfirm.com.

    An employer was ordered to reinstate an employee they had wrongly dismissed. The employer reinstated him, putting him back on the payroll, but simultaneously placed him on involuntary garden leave. The employee sought and got a second court order that this was not real reinstatement. The employer was ordered to allow the employee to return to the office and perform his habitual work there on pain of a penalty of € 100 for each day of non-compliance. The employer challenged this penalty, but without success.


Inga Klimašauskiené
Inga Klimašauskiené is a Senior Associate at GLIMSTEDT in Vilnius, http://www.glimstedt.lt.
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