A group of art and history experts who worked at the National Gallery have won a bid to be given workers’ rights.
The 27 educators, who call themselves the NG27, gave talks, lectures and workshops at the central London museum until October 2017. They were not given any paid holiday, sick pay, pension or maternity pay despite paying taxes through the payroll.
The National Gallery had claimed the educators were all freelancers after an employment tribunal in central London, Judge A M Snelson ruled on Thursday it was “unsustainable” for the gallery to describe the workers as self-employed.
When the gallery moved staff from temporary to permanent contracts, the educators claimed they were dismissed with just eight permanent contracts offered to the group on reduced salary and terms.
The NG27 also made claims of unfair dismissal, but these were dismissed by the judge. The case has been described as the first in the public sector to address employment rights in the “gig economy” of short-term contracts or freelance work. The claimants add, however, that they will need to continue the legal battle to ensure that their “full rights are acknowledged”.
NG27 said in a statement: “The employment tribunal found that the claimants were in fact workers, despite having been denied their legal right to this status by the National Gallery for decades. The tribunal judge concluded that ‘in short, the claimants worked ‘for’ the gallery as members of its team of educators’ despite arguments to the contrary by the gallery.”
Speaking after the ruling, Karly Allen, who worked for the gallery for 18 years, said: “This judgement cannot take away the fact that we have lost our jobs and the close relationship with the gallery which we loved. It does go some way to acknowledge the losses we have suffered and our contribution to the life of the gallery.”
Ms Allen also thanked those who had contributed to a crowdfunding campaign to assist with legal fees.
She said the group would work out whether any backdated holiday pay was owed and “actively consider” whether to appeal against the ruling that the claimants should be classed as workers, but not employees.