At a preliminary review held in advance of the writer's unfair dismissal case, The Times had hoped to persuade the tribunal that Thicknesse, who had an annual contract with the paper and was paid Ô£35,000 a year — before being dismissed by incoming arts editor Alex O'Connell in late 2005 — should not be classified as an employee or entitled to claim benefits, according to the Guardian.
The Times argued that it was allowed to dismiss Thicknesse on short notice because he was not an employee. However, tribunal chairman Colin Grazin ruled that certain provisions of The Times's contract were a "sham" and granted Thicknesse employee status. The Guardian report cites as an example of a "sham" provision a clause permitting the writer to use, at his own expense, third parties (such as researchers) in preparing his work; the ruling pointed out that The Times would not have tolerated Thicknesse actually using such third parties in writing his reviews.
Thicknesse, who represented himself, will now return to court to face his former employer in his unfair dismissal suit.
The Times and other London newspapers frequently hire writers on freelance contracts such as the one Thicknesse challenged; theoretically, such writers could now claim employee status and the benefits that go with it.
The newspaper's lawyer claimed the decision would have "huge implications" for the industry; Grazin responded that he did not believe that his "decision will open the floodgates."