Online tutor platform is an “agency” not just an introducer

A recent case, Simply Learning Tutor Agency & Others v BEIS [2020] EWHC 2461, saw the court rule that an online introductory platform was in fact an “employment agency” and therefore falls within the scope of the Employment Agencies Act (EAA) 1973. This in turn means that it is subject to significant regulatory burdens, including Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations, otherwise known as conduct regulations.

The tutoring firms in this case run online platforms which introduce private tutors to parents, who in turn pay for the tutor’s services via the tutoring firm, which in turn pays the tutor. Following an enquiry, BEIS concluded that the tutoring firms were “employment agencies” within the terms of the Employment Agencies Act, however the affected firms applied to the court for judicial review contending this.

The tutoring firms argued that they could not be an employment agency or employment business as no-one got employed, rather the business simply introduced self-employed tutors to parents and forwarded payments on to tutors. However the judge held that the definition of employment should be “wide and compendious” and not be restricted to the common law definition of “employment”.

The judge confirmed that the original purpose of the EEA was to protect both those who may offer services for hire through employment agencies and also those receiving services through the agencies. Relevant protections afforded by the EEA include the professional qualifications of work seekers, and where they might work with vulnerable people, in which case the agency has a duty to check the qualifications and ensure the work seeker is suitable to work in such situations.

There are of course many other legal obligations that employment agencies must adhere to which you can read about in our article on conduct regulations.

The outcome of this case will be relevant to many other platforms which might also be operating under the same misconception that they are not an “employment agency”, and it is likely that this case will have far reaching implications.

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