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Study Notes

Key Case | Barclays v Multiple claimants (2020) | Vicarious Liability - Relationship of Employment

A-Level, BTEC National
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 26 Apr 2021

Despite a relationship appearing as one of employer and independent contractor, if the relationship has the characteristics of a contract of service, a contract of employment the courts may find that one is present.


Claimant: 126 parties

Defendant: Barclays Bank, via vicarious liability for a doctor employed who has since died.

Facts: A qualified doctor conducted medical examinations for Barclays Bank in respect of prospective and current employees, in respect of which he received a fee per examination. A group of 126 female claimants made allegations of serious sexual assaults against the doctor, taking place during the medical examinations. The medical examinations were a condition of employment for the claimants. The claimants were made to undertake the examination alone, the doctor was provided with proforma by the Bank, headed with the Bank’s logo and entitled ‘Barclays Confidential Medical Report’. The report was completed and signed by the doctor and the claimant and was then returned directly to the Bank. The case concerned whether the bank was vicariously liable for the actions of the doctor, the bank sought to prove that there was no relationship of employment and the doctor was thus self-employed.

Outcome: Not liable

Legal principle: The Supreme Court, reversing the Courts of Appeal earlier 2018 judgement, decided unanimously that the doctor was not an employee but was an independent contractor and therefore there was not a relationship akin to employment. This effectively confirmed that there is an independent contractor defence in vicarious liability which can be effective in deciding employment status.

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