Former Turner Contemporary employee wins employment status tribunal

Turner Contemporary
Credit: Ron Ellis /

An employment tribunal has ruled that a former Turner Contemporary staff member was entitled to redundancy pay, despite the gallery’s move to class her as a casual worker rather than an employee.

Jan Wheatley and 39 others received an email in 2020 informing them of the removal of gallery assistant and navigator roles, and inviting them to apply for 16 newly created engagement assistant jobs with contracted hours. This resulted in the loss of around 24 roles, with those on zero hour contracts, including Wheatley, told they were not entitled to redundancy pay.

Turner Contemporary argued that each shift was an isolated term of employment, but Judge Corrigan said during the tribunal that navigators had a staff discount, were paid by PAYE, engaged in staff consultation and forums, and were included in social events and trips, thereby counting as employees.

The judgement stated: “The claimant worked regularly and consistently for the respondent over a period of about 10 years in an ongoing relationship that had never been terminated. Over those 10 years she worked every month, except three, prior to the pandemic. She worked more some months than others, but was in continuous communication about her availability, and worked every exhibition throughout her employment. Despite the labels applied by the respondent her work was neither casual nor truly intermittent. It was regular part-time work.”

Some staff were offered settlements of around £5,000, but Wheatley turned this down. The judgement agreed that she was not working on a contractor basis, and she was awarded £745 redundancy pay.

A Turner Contemporary spokesperson added: “Turner Contemporary accepts the findings of the tribunal and reasserts its commitment to continue to learn and to amend its practices, always striving to better serve our staff, artists, our local communities, national and international audience. The findings relate to a historic case and the new director and senior leadership team continue to work to ensure that all staff are treated fairly, and with care and compassion.”