Market Investigations v Minister of Social Security

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Last modified: 07/03/18 Author: In-house law team

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Market Investigations Ltd v Minister of Social Security [1969] 2 QB 173

Definition of an employee under a ‘contract of service’.


A woman was engaged by a market research company to act as an interviewer on a part-time basis. For each particular survey, she would conduct interviews in exchange for payment. She was required to work for a certain number of days at a time during each occasion, follow a comprehensive ‘Interviewer’s Guide’ and comply with other contractual terms.


The question arose as to whether extent and degree of control exercised by the company over the woman qualified her as an “employed person” under a contract of service for the purposes of the National Insurance Act 1965.


Firstly, the Court stipulated that employment is determined by the degree and extent of control that a company exercises over the person’s performance of the task to show ‘a master and servant’ relationship. Secondly, the Court held that in order to distinguish between a contract ‘of service’ and ‘for services,’ the test to be applied is: whether the person is engaging the services “as a person in business on his own account.” Considering the surrounding circumstances and contractual provisions, if the answer to the question is “no,” the person is an employee under a contract ‘of service.’ On the facts of the case, the Court placed weight on the way in which the company exercised control over, for example, the technique of interviewing, subjects of the interviews, content of the interviews, questionnaires, forms and other details concerning the performance of the task, and the way in which the woman was not conducting the business on her own account but on behalf of the company. Accordingly, the Court held that the woman was an employee of the company under a ‘contract of service.’

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