Over 1,000 “leaders” run 6,000 Weight Watchers (WW) meetings in the UK each week. The First Tier Tribunal has ruled that these individuals are employed.

Most WW leaders, in common with many other part-time "party planners" have long regarded their employment status as self-employed. 

This is a summary of the main points to date in this case, as WW is appealing the decision in order to avoid a large bill for both PAYE and Class 1 NICs.

Key points: the employment status tests

Mutuality of obligation (this is that an employer offers work and that the worker also offers his services): is evidenced when:

  • the individual concerned is actually working (because obviously work is given and services offered to perform the task), or
  • where the parties have agreed a contract (written or implied).

  • There is no written contract between the leaders and WW. WW’s documentation which acts the general training and guidance for leaders was found by the Tribunal to be loosely drafted and contained inconsistencies - not ideal for an employment status case. Ironically for WW, the sloppy drafting has clearly worked for many years on a practical level for the company.

Personal services: WW expects a leader to attend meeting but WW has the freedom to choose a leader at any time. 

Control: WW has last say over controls such as the timings and places of meetings, even if the leavers set them, and it dictates own programme. 

Risk and reward: leaders are paid according to a common tariff and receive commission from selling stock. However prices are fixed by WW and leaders cannot sell rival products. Whilst leaders might benefit if they control their own costs this was not explored by the Tribunal.

Termination: WW had the power to prevent a leader from gaining any enduring business advantages. An indicator of employment. However, both parties could terminate the agreement without notice - hardly indicative of employment, and it appears bore little weight with the Tribunal.