Jess Varnish appeals against employment tribunal ruling

Jess Varnish has decided to lodge an appeal against January’s ruling in her landmark employment tribunal against British Cycling and UK Sport.

Varnish began legal proceedings after claiming she was dropped from the UK’s elite cycling programme having failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics and told to “go and have a baby”.

The investigation found that former British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton, had used sexist language although he denies any wrongdoing.

Varnish claimed in her tribunal in December that her relationship with British Cycling and UK Sport had been akin to that of an employer or employee.

However, the judge did not find in her favour, meaning she was unable to pursue a case for wrongful dismissal and sexual discrimination.

Varnish was given 42 days from the date of judgement on January 16 to appeal. She has chosen to challenge the ruling relating to British Cycling. No appeal has been lodged relating to UK Sport.

This case was built on recent ‘gig economy’ cases that have seen some companies required to admit that their apparently self-employed contractors are actually workers with employment rights.

British Cycling enforced that Varnish was dropped for the reasons of performance alone. She attempted to prove she was an employee at the tribunal in December by saying coaches had “extreme control” over cyclists.

Varnish’s legal team believe their client has grounds to appeal on a point of law. Varnish’s lawyer Simon Fenton, of Constantine Law, said: “The appeal tribunal has been asked to overturn the original judgment and to decide that Ms Varnish was an employee”

This case is important because it has the potential to alter the relationship between athletes, governing bodies and UK Sport. The company body currently gives more than 1,000 athletes up to £25,000 a year tax-free but it does not offer benefits such as sick pay, pensions and holidays.

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Donna Martin

Donna Martin

Partner at Mackrell Turner Garrett
Donna Martin is a Partner in the Employment team at Mackrell Turner Garrett’s London office. She advises both employers and employees on a full range of contentious and non-contentious issues. As an employment law expert, Donna has significant experience in drafting employment contracts and handbooks, advising on grievance and disciplinary procedures and preparatory work prior to tribunals, including advising on the advantages and disadvantages of settling cases.