Jess Varnish

Former Great Britain cyclist Jess Varnish has lost her employment tribunal appeal against British Cycling.

Varnish, 29, has spent years in a legal battle over her claim she should be considered an employee of the governing body or funding agency UK Sport.

The former European team sprint champion lost her initial case in January 2019.

Her appeal has now been dismissed after a two-day remote hearing in May.

The judge, Mr Justice Choudhury, ruled that: “The [original] tribunal was entitled to conclude, based on an evaluative judgment taking account of all relevant factors, that the claimant was not an employee or a worker.

“The tribunal had not erred in its approach to the assessment of employee status and nor had it reached conclusions that no reasonable tribunal, properly directed, could have reached.”

If Varnish – a former European team sprint champion and world silver medallist – had been deemed an employee, it would have paved the way for her to sue both British Cycling and UK Sport for wrongful dismissal and sexual discrimination after she was controversially dropped from Team GB in the build-up to the Rio 2016 Olympics.

British Cycling’s case was that the relationship it had with athletes was similar to students receiving grants from universities, rather than employees.

The initial tribunal dismissed the claim that there was a contract of employment, despite acknowledging that there was a degree of “control” in the relationship between Varnish and British Cycling.

It also rejected the submission by Varnish’s legal team that the services provided by British Cycling amounted to remuneration, finding that they were “benefits”. The tribunal did not consider her a “worker”.

British Cycling said in a statement: “We had tried to reach a resolution with Jess much sooner, so we regret she was advised to pursue the route of an employment tribunal when other avenues were open to her.

“Because of our responsibility to represent the best interests of every rider who hopes to compete at an Olympics or Paralympics, that decision meant we had no option but to oppose her case.

“Since Jess raised her concerns about the Great Britain cycling team in 2016, we have implemented significant changes to the culture and processes of our high-performance programme.

“Four years on, and while we are always seeking to improve, we are happy to say that the well-being of staff and riders in our high-performance programme continues to be our highest priority.”


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