Another blow to the ‘gig economy’ - plumber wins Court of Appeal case

Published on: 10/02/2017

#Employment Tribunals

Today the Court of Appeal has handed down its decision in a case brought by plumber Gary Smith against Pimlico Plumbers. The Court upheld an earlier Employment Tribunal decision that Mr Smith was a worker and not self-employed.

This case is one among many challenges to the growing use of self-employed contractors in UK workplaces. We’ve previously blogged about similar legal action brought by individuals engaged on a self-employed basis by Uber and CitySprint, as well as the problems faced by Deliveroo and Hermes. However, today’s decision is by the highest court to consider the issue so far and will undoubtedly have an impact.

While the Court of Appeal was keen to stress that these cases are fact-specific, employers using self-employed contractors would be wise to take heed of the facts in Mr Smith’s case. Although he was VAT-registered, paid tax on a self-employed basis and provided his own materials, the Court agreed that Mr Smith was entitled to basic workers’ rights including national minimum wage, paid holiday and protection from discrimination. One of the key factors was that he had worked solely for Pimlico Plumbers for 6 years.

This may not be the end of the story for Mr Smith - speaking outside court the founder of Pimlico Plumbers told the press there is a good chance they will appeal to the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, with mounting pressure from the courts and Tribunals, as well as Government focus on this issue, smart employers will take action now if they are in any doubt about the employment status of their staff. If you have any concerns or questions, contact our employment law team for commercial and practical advice.


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