Much to the relief of many law firms, the Court of Appeal have overturned an EAT decision that a partner of a law firm was a “worker” within the Employment Rights Act 1996 and so entitled to whistleblowers’ protection in Clyde & Co LLP v Bates van Winkelhof.

Clyde & Co offered Ms Bates van Winkelhof (“W”) equity partnership when they acquired part of the business of the law firm she worked for, which had a joint venture agreement with a Tanzanian law firm, Ako Law (“Ako”) . W was paid in part by variable profit share but was also guaranteed a certain level of remuneration.

Subsequently, W reported the managing partner of Ako for money laundering and accepting bribes. Ako dismissed her and after an investigation, Clyde & Co expelled her from the partnership.

W brought a whistleblowing complaint against Clyde & Co. To make such a claim she had to establish that she was “an individual who works under an employment contract or any other contract whereby he undertakes to do work or services for another party to the contract who is not, by virtue of that contract, a client or customer” and therefore a worker for the purposes of section 230 ERA.

The Court of Appeal found that the relationship between an LLP partner and an LLP does not reflect the subordination and hierarchy that is implied by the statutory definition of a worker.