Whether someone is subject to employment law or not is dependant upon whether or not that individual can be legally defined as being self-employed or not. Individual contractors are self-employed.
A contractor is a self-employed individual and employment laws are therefore mostly not applicable in the way they are for employees; this is because an individual self-employed contractor is not working for someone else. They pay their own taxes and national insurance and are responsible for their own work and services without direct management from an employer. PAYE does not apply to them for example. Individual contractors work for someone under a contract that is sometimes referred to as a ‘contract for services’ or a ‘consultancy agreement’ that may specify only a fixed period of work rather than an open-ended contract of employment.
Self-employed people are not entitled to benefits from their employers such as sick leave, paid holiday leave or other such benefits as employees are. The process of giving quotations for work and submitting invoices requesting payment further defines a contractor as being self-employed and therefore not coming under employment laws as do regular employees.
If someone undertakes work that is brokered through an employment agency they may well be entitled to some of the benefits – or rights – that regular employees are entitled to. This is because they will be deemed as being employed by an agency rather than working as an individual contractor. The amount of time they work for a specific employer will dictate what rights they are entitled to, for example the amount of paid holiday; this ‘qualifying period’ is usually 12 weeks.
Whilst employment law may not apply to an individual contractor, health and safety law and regulations will still apply. Employers are responsible for ensuring that anyone working on their premises is going to be safe and able to carry out any work safely. This applies to contractors who are responsible for ensuring that they can do this but the employer hiring the individual contractor is also bound by health and safety legislation.
In summary employment law does not apply to an individual contractor provided that the individual really is self-employed; this is defined by the individual being wholly responsible for their own business, and cannot be defined as either an employee working under a contract of employment or a worker the same or under any other form of agreement either in writing or oral.