A recent case has highlighted the need for golf clubs to review the legal relationship they have with their club professionals. The case involved golf pro, Nick McNeil, who had been employed by Rushmere Golf Club in Suffolk since 1979. After the club terminated his contract, Mr McNeil went to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal.
The Club contacted the Worcestershire based National Golf Clubs Advisory Association (NGCAA) for advice and was put in touch with their specialist employment law adviser, solicitor Fiona Holdsworth from Bolton-based firm Kippax Beaumont Lewis. She explains, “This whole case centred on whether Mr McNeil was self-employed or an employee of the Club. We were able to prove conclusively that he was self-employed and therefore not entitled to pursue a claim for unfair dismissal.”
Fiona Holdsworth believes that the case has highlighted an aspect of employment law that all golf clubs would be well advised to heed. “On the surface it would appear quite straightforward proving whether or not someone is an employee but in reality it is quite complex,” she said.
“Obviously, the actual contract itself is important. Clubs need to ensure that the contract they have with their pro doesn‘t refer to holiday entitlement or sick pay, for example, because such things would indicate an employer/employee relationship. However, of even greater importance is the day-to-day relationship between the club and its pro.
“Although a contract might clearly show that the pro is self-employed, if the club treats him like an employee, it could find itself on the wrong side of the law and facing a claim for unfair dismissal.”
Holdsworth advises all clubs to check the contract they have with their pro and take advice about how the working relationship with the pro should be handled on a day-to-day basis.
“This might sound extreme but a claim, whether successful or not, could cost a club many thousands of pounds in legal fees just to establish that the pro is not an employee,” she adds.
Fiona Holdsworth, Kippax Beaumont Lewis 01204 527777
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