Mr Drake carried out work as an interviewer for IPSOS MORI under a series of ad hoc assignments. When the relationship ended, Mr Drake claimed unfair dismissal on the basis that he was an employee.

The Tribunal found that the relationship between Mr Drake and IPSOS MORI lacked the necessary mutuality of obligation for there to be a contract of employment and rejected his claim.

The EAT disagreed and held that there was sufficient mutuality of obligation for there to be a contract in place when Mr Drake was actually working on each assignment in return for pay. The EAT found that Mr Drake had been obliged to work personally for IPSOS MORI until he returned or completed the assignment or the company withdrew it.

The EAT confirmed that further findings were needed in relation to the level of control IPSOS MORI had over Mr Drake's work and whether the other terms of his contract were consistent with it being one of employment. It sent the case back to the Tribunal for these issues to be considered.


The key principle set out in this decision is that mutuality of obligation can exist even where the relationship can be terminated at will at any time.  However, other factors, such as control and an obligation to provide personal service, will also be required for the contract to be one of employment. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.