10 February 2017
The Court of Appeal has today determined the case of Pimlico Plumbers & Charlie Mullins v Gary Smith, which concerned the employment status of Gary Smith and the other plumbers more generally.
Mr Smith was VAT registered and paid taxed on a self-employed basis, but worked solely for Pimlico Plumbers for six years, by whom he said he was “tightly controlled”. He argued he was entitled to basic workers’ rights including the National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage, paid holiday and the ability to bring discrimination claims. Pimlico Plumbers maintained that he was genuinely self-employed.
The Court of Appeal today has agreed with the previous decision of the Employment Tribunal that the plumbers were workers and not self-employed contractors. However, they have also agreed that the workers did not reach the required “gold standard” to be considered as employees.
This case is another example of these type of disputes, many of which involve individuals working in the “gig economy”, and follows hot on the heels of the Uber drivers and the CitySprint cyclist's decisions. The fact that the Court of Appeal, the highest court to consider such a case, has found in favour of worker status in this instance, indicates the inclination of the courts to establish the basic worker rights for individuals wherever possible and give them some form of protection. It is increasingly clear that if, as a business, you wish to ensure that your contractors remain genuinely self-employed, the contracts they are working under need to be completely watertight.