It is possible to be employed by more than one person at the same time for the same work.
This situation can arise in situations where you are initially employed by one company to work for another closely related company.
It might also arise if you are contracted to work for a labour hire company – where both the labour hire business and the business you do work for are treated as your employer.
If you’re an employee, this has the benefit of allowing you to pursue claims against more than one employer.
This is particularly important in cases where one of them has gone into liquidation or is otherwise unable to pay.
So how do you know if you are employed by more than one employer?
DETERMINE WHO IS YOUR EMPLOYER
There are several factors that the Authority or Employment Court will look at to determine who is an employer in any particular case.
The starting point is your employment agreement, if one exists. If there is one, you will be normally taken to have recorded your intentions in that agreement about who your employer is.
But who your employment agreement names as your employer is not the end of the matter. All the factors relating to the context of your employment must be looked at, as if to cross-check whether the agreement reflects reality.
If the reality points to someone other than the employer named in the agreement, then that other person or company may be the true employer.
Factors outside the wording of the employment agreement that may be relevant can include:
- Who pays the wages.
- Who gives you your directions as to what to do day to day.
- Whose premises you work from.
- Whose company you tell others you represent in your email sign-off, etc.
- Who benefits from the work that you do.
MORE THAN ONE EMPLOYER?
You can be employed by more than one in cases where these factors are split across two or more employers.
For example, Company A might pay your wages and tell you what to do every day, but Company B is the one with whom you have an employment agreement and who provides you with the equipment you need to do your job.
In these cases, you can be regarded as having two employers in respect of the same work.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Let’s say someone from Company A in the above example tells you that you are “sacked”. You pack up your things, and you receive your final pay from Company A.
Company A denies that they were your employer because you never had an employment agreement with them. You complain to Company B, but they say it is not their problem because they were not the ones who “sacked” you.
In that case, if you wanted to pursue a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal, you could initially treat both companies as your employers and raise your personal grievance with both of them.
In some cases, the Authority has been willing to find that both companies in that sort of situation are liable for any remedies. This is especially useful if one of them claims they have no ability to pay, or later goes into liquidation.
This is another outworking of the principle that the employment agreement itself is not the last word. What matters is whether the agreement reflects reality.
The Employment Relations Authority and the Employment Court will examine the real nature of the relationships affecting your work life to discern elements of control and whether there was mutual intent to employ you.
Sometimes tha can lead to the surprising result that you have been employed by more than one employer, which means you may have more than one set of pockets to target should you need to raise a personal grievance.