Caddies have for a long been an integral part of the game of golf. They provide an incredibly valuable service to golfers, carrying their bags,giving local insights, and helping them navigate the course. In return, caddies are usually paid a fee for their services. However, there has been some confusion and concern among golf courses about the legal implications of caddie payments. In this blog, we’ll explore the legalities of caddie payments and also the reasons why caddies paying a fee before the start of every round does not necessarily make them employees
I would like to point out before we dive deeper that this is purely experiential information we’ve gained through being in the caddying industry for a long time, and this is not legal advice!
Understanding the Difference Between Independent Contractors and Employees
Before we dive into caddie payments, it’s good to understand the difference between independent contractors and employees. The classification of a worker as an independent contractor or an employee has significant legal implications for both the worker and the employer.
In general, an independent contractor is a person who performs services for another person or company under an agreement that defines the terms of the work but leaves the contractor free to control the details of how the work is performed. On the other hand, an employee is usually a person who performs services for another person or company under the direction and control of that person or company.
The distinction between independent contractors and employees is crucial because employees are entitled to a range of legal protections and benefits, such as minimum wage, overtime pay, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance. Independent contractors, however, are not entitled to these protections and benefits.
Caddies as Independent Contractors
Now, let’s apply these definitions to caddies. In general, caddies are considered independent contractors, not employees. There are some exceptions to this rule, with companies like CaddieMaster who employ their caddies. Typically however, caddies are hired on a round-by-round basis and they have a significant amount of control over how they perform their work. Caddies are typically not subject to the same level of direction and control as employees, such as specific dress codes or work schedules.
The Risk of Claiming Employee Status
Some golf courses have expressed concern that requiring caddies to pay a fee before each round could be interpreted as evidence of an employer-employee relationship. This could potentially expose the golf course to legal claims from caddies seeking employee status and the associated benefits and protections.
There has been evidence of caddie lawsuits arising in the US in recent years, however these have arisen where caddies claimed they were earning below minimum wage whilst still being “controlled” by the caddiemaster. I’ll include the link to the public URL’s below:
While there is always a risk of legal claims, the fact that caddies are typically classified as independent contractors means that requiring a fee before each round is unlikely to result in an employer-employee relationship. As mentioned earlier, caddies have a significant amount of control over how they perform their work, and if they wish in many cases have the option to work for multiple courses .These factors support the independent contractor classification and reduce the risk of legal claims.
What do golf clubs charge caddies?
Before each round, it is common practice, particularly in the UK and Ireland, to charge caddies a fee before they complete their job. Many of the top clubs around the world operate using this system, in which caddies will pay an “admin fee” to staff before their round. In some cases, this payment will go directly to the caddiemaster who is an independent contractor. In other cases, this will be a payment made to the club.
From our experience, pricing on this can vary. We have seen caddie admin fees ranging from £1 all the way up to £17. Factors to consider may include how many hours are spent in the coordination of these jobs, what the payments will be used for and is there any software being used to schedule these jobs.
On a slight tangent to this, many top clubs in the US now operate a digital payments caddie system, where golfers pay caddies via an app.
In conclusion, caddie payments are something that must be considered significantly by clubs who run caddie programmes of any size, and it’s essential to understand the legalities surrounding them. While there is always a risk of legal claims, caddies are typically classified as independent contractors, and requiring a fee before each round is unlikely to result in an employer-employee relationship.
This is not legal advice but purely experiential information we have gained through being in the caddying industry for 10+ years. It’s always a good idea to consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
If you’d like to have a chat to gain our industry experience and best practices on caddie programmes, feel free to book a chat HERE!