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Employment Tribunal spotlight falls on British Cycling


The judgement in the recent Employment Tribunal case heard in December 2018 between Jessica Varnish and British Cycling & UK Sport has been published. Varnish, an ex-Great Britain cyclist had claimed that she was an employee of British Cycling and UK Sport and if the tribunal had agreed it would have given her the green light to proceed with claims of wrongful dismissal and sex discrimination. She brought legal proceedings having been dropped from the elite cycling programme after failing to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

The majority of legal argument in the case focused on the level of control that British Cycling had over her (and others) and whether she ought to be designated either an employee or a worker of British Cycling or UK Sport. They argued her status was one of independent contractor and compared the situation, where athletes receive funding, to be more like a university grant.

The Employment Tribunal held that she was neither an employee nor a worker in a judgement which, according to UK Sport, “provides reassurance that the relationship between UK Sport, the governing body and athletes is and as it has always intended to be, which is to provide the means and support for talented athletes to achieve their dreams of realising success at Olympic/Paralympic games”.

Irrespective of the result, it is clear that as a result the spotlight is now on the treatment, protection and support of those elite athletes who receive funding from a governing body and/or UK Sport.

Should you require any advice about the issues in this article such as employment status, complaints against your employer are wondering if you ought to be classed as an employee, worker or self employed then contact our employment department on 01270 25117 or cvr@hibberts.com for specialist advice from an experienced employment solicitor.