“Grandma got run over by a reindeer”, announces Simon.
Dave pretends to be amused, and reaches for his mobile as if to call for an ambulance. Such is the festive spirit abounding in FinalVinyl lately, thanks to Simon’s constantly dropping by on the pretext of looking for an out-of-the-way present for his long-suffering wife.
As it happens, Dave does have in stock a single copy of Elmo’s classic 1992 solo release. And since he has had that copy since the day he opened for business, he is just about to hand it over as a gift. But Simon stops him, and insists on paying for it. Dave has trouble hiding his astonishment.
“The thing is” says Simon thoughtfully, “I wanted to ask your view on a legal question”.
Dave’s astonishment now gets the better of him. “You’re joking”, he says, “I thought you knew it all”.
Simon clarifies: “it’s not so much the law, as the application of it, that I want a second opinion on. It’s complicated, and I have to be a bit careful not to reveal any names.”
“Go on then”.
“Well it’s to do with this friend of mine, who has a problem with some of his workers….”
Simon goes on to explain about his friend, who has a seasonal business which requires specialist workers at Christmas time. “What he wants to know”, says Simon, “is whether these workers are employees or not. Some of them have been doing this work year after year, and they reckon that they’re employees for the time they are working. And some of them have tax returns to complete from last year.”
“How much work do they do for your friend?”
“One day a week?”
“No, er, one day a year.” Simon seems a bit shifty.
“What do their contracts say?”
“They don’t have written contracts”.
“Well that’s relevant, but it isn’t conclusive. Where did your friend get these workers from?”
“I, er, he used an agency: Selfin-Ployd. They specialise in these kind of workers.”
“What’s special about them?”
“They’re just special, that’s all.” Simon is a little more shifty than before.
Dave doesn’t press the point. Instead he says “Doesn’t it depend on the circumstances? Like whether they could send anyone to do the work in their place, or whether they have any control over their hours of work, and stuff like that?”
“Yes, I know all that stuff”, says Simon.
“That’s what I read on Simplify the Law,” Dave continues, rather pleased with himself.
“Yes I know” repeats Simon, looking irritated. “And it all points towards these workers being elf-employed.”
“Self-employed”, Simon corrects himself hastily, looking shiftier yet. “But I’m not sure whether the law applies to them at all.”
Dave doesn’t answer, because his attention has just been caught by a red and white coat in Simon’s rucksack. Realisation dawns.
“OMG! That ‘friend’ – it’s you isn’t it? Those workers – they’re not like other workers at all, are they? And you – you’re…”
But Simon – if that is his real name – has vanished. All that Dave can hear is the jingling of the shop doorbell.
“Hang on”, he thinks. “We don’t have a doorbell”.