Pimlico Plumbers case heard in the Supreme Court

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard a crucial gig economy case with Pimlico Plumbers challenging last year’s Court of Appeal decision that a plumber who signed an agreement with the company defining himself as self-employed, was in fact a worker.

Last year, in Pimlico Plumbers Ltd & Another v Smith, the Court of Appeal held that a plumber was a worker under statutory provisions which should have entitled him to the rights of a worker throughout his employment.

In this case, Gary Smith was required under agreement to wear a uniform with the company’s logo on display and drive a van that was leased from the company. In addition, he was also required to work a minimum number of hours each week.

When Pimlico Plumbers v Smith reached the Court of Appeal; it was accepted that he was a worker, which entitled him to basic employment rights. Such as, the right to National Minimum Wage & the right to paid annual leave.

In this instance, the Court of Appeal had been particularly swayed by Mr Smith’s requirement to provide his services personally. His agreement with his employers did not allow him to get someone else to carry out his duties.

Charlie Mullins, who is the Chief Executive of Pimlico Plumbers said: “The outcome of the case will have huge ramifications for a large part of the economy, including the media, the health service and of course the construction industry.”

“In one three-year period Mr Smith earned more than £500,000 as a self-employed contractor, but when his circumstances changed he wanted me to foot the bill for sick and holiday pay, as well as to grant him other employment rights, which he was not entitled to, and which in my view he had already been paid to take care of for himself.”

Mullins argues that this case is not like Uber and other gig economy cases.

“The engineers who contract to Pimlico Plumbers are very highly-skilled individuals, can go anywhere and do whatever they want.”

“Pimlico Plumbers wants to comply with its obligations and it has always been our genuine belief that we have been doing that. HMRC has looked into the situation in the past and told us that engineers are self-employed. We have been operating in accordance with this.”

If the Supreme Court dismisses the appeal from Pimlico, like Uber, it has been predicted that we will see a notable transformation within the ever-growing gig economy. This means employers will have to adjust their business models to minimise risks associated with worker status.

This hearing is set to last 2 days with judgement expected in early March.

We will keep employers informed of updates as and when it comes in.

Taylor Review: Government pledges to reform workers’ rights

The Government have reported that it will enforce workers’ rights from their first day in a new job.

On 7th February, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it had acted on “all but one of Matthew Taylors 53 recommendations.”

It has been proposed that the Good Work Plan will ensure that all workers, including casual and zero-hour workers will receive basic rights and payslips and, for the first time, ensure all workers receive holiday and sick pay.

In addition, the Good Work Plan will seek to guarantee the right for all workers to request a more stable contract of employment.

Greg Clark, Business Secretary said: “The Taylor Review said that the current approach to employment is successful but we should build on that success, in preparing for future opportunities.”

“We want to embrace new ways of working, and to do so we will be one of the first countries to prepare out employment rules to reflect new challenges.”

“We will take forward Matthew Taylors recommendations and commit to pursuing the quality of work as well as the number of jobs.”

However, before taking any further action, the Government have said it will consult with businesses on the impact of plans to enforce employment rights, change rules concerning agency workers, increase transparency in the labour market and consider employment status.

The Good Work Plan will include:

  • Tougher regulations for sectors who employ unpaid interns to do the job of a worker
  • Publishing names of employers who fail to pay Employment Tribunal awards
  • Quadrupling Employment Tribunal fines for employers who have shown malice, spite or gross oversight to £20,000
  • Higher minimum wage rates for individuals on zero-hour contracts

Matthew Taylor, the leading author of the Taylor Review and Chief Executive of the RSA said: “There is much more to be done to make good work for all a realistic goal, but the Government’s response, emphasising that the good work agenda must now change up a gear for Government, businesses and unions alike.”

“There is much more to be done to make good work for all a realistic goal, but the government’s response to my review is substantive and comprehensive. It will make a difference to the lives of the most vulnerable workers and that is what matters.”

Employment Status – Worker or Employee?

At present, an individual’s employment rights will depend upon whether they are an employee or a worker.

An individual is generally classes as a worker if:

  • They have a contract or other arrangements to do work or services personally for a reward
  • Their reward is for money or a benefit in kind
  • They only have a limited right to send someone else to do the work
  • They have to turn up for work even if they do not want to
  • Their employer has to have work for them to do as long as the contract or arrangement lasts

Employment Rights

Workers are entitled to certain employment rights which include:

  • National Minimum Wage
  • Protection against unlawful deduction of wages
  • The statutory minimum level of paid annual leave
  • The statutory minimum length of rest breaks
  • To not work more than 48 hours in one week or to opt out of this right if they choose
  • Protection against unlawful discrimination
  • To not be treated less favourably if they work part-time

An employee is someone who works under a contract of employment. All employees are workers; however, an employee has extra employment rights and responsibilities that do not apply to workers who are not employees.

Employment Rights

These rights include all of the rights workers have and:

  • Statutory sick pay
  • Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave and pay
  • Minimum notice periods if their employment will be terminated
  • Protection against unfair dismissal
  • Right to request flexible working
  • Time off for emergencies
  • Statutory redundancy pay

How can Employment Law Services (ELS) help?

If you require employment law advice on any of the issues raised in this article, or any other employment issue give us a call today on 0370 218 5662.  You can also find out more about our fixed fee employment law packages here, or get in touch.

National Sickie Day 2018 – How should employers deal with absence in the workplace

It has been reported that traditionally, the first Monday in February is the day in which the greatest number of employees in the UK take the day off due to illness.

It is suggested that this is down to a number of factors; this is the first pay weekend since Christmas, meaning a lot of people have been out celebrating all weekend. Another theory suggests that employees tend to revaluate their career paths in January, therefore, a lot of these sickies are to attend interviews.

After browsing the web, the top 10 ridiculous excuses include:

(1)    I can’t come in today; my flatmates took the door handle off and I can’t get out

(2)    All of my work clothes are wet

(3)    I’ve managed to secure a parking space outside my house and I can’t risk losing it

(4)    Goats got into my garden

(5)    I’m stuck in the bathroom

(6)    My mum was hoovering the stairs and I couldn’t get past

(7)    My hamster is poorly

(8)    Death of relative (relative later to be found alive and well)

(9)    My trousers split on the way in

(10) I swallowed a hot sausage last night and it burnt my throat so badly

So, what action can employers take to pull the duvet off malingering employees?


Is absenteeism an issue in your workplace?

This can be a difficult issue to tackle, especially because employee absences can occur for a number of different reasons.

Employers should:

  • Ensure attendance expectations are clearly set; this solution may be as simple as having clear drafted attendance policies
  • Enforce attendance policies consistently; it can be tempting for employers to allow more absences than the workplace policy states when an employee is facing a difficult situation. It is recommended that employers implement a policy that has flexibility built into it so I can be easily enforced throughout the workforce
  • Ensure all employees know what steps to take when they are going to be off sick; employees should be aware of who to contact, what time the contact should be made and what information should be provided. In addition, they should be aware of what documentation they will be required to provide (if any) when they return
  • Monitor absences; doing this allows employers to keep a note of absences and identify any patterns or trends
  • Carry out return to work interviews; these interviews should be conducted after every absence in the workplace. Employers should use return to work interviews to; welcome the employee back to work and check they are well enough to resume their duties


Presenteeism, or going into work while sick can cause lack of productivity, poor health, exhaustion and workplace epidemics.

Therefore, employees who turn up sick to work, can have a significant and costly impact on the organisation, not only in terms of spreading the illness, but in terms of diminished productivity, quality of work and attention to safety.

Employers should:

  • Send sick employees home
  • Educate employees on the importance of staying at home when poorly
  • Promote health and well-being in the workplace
  • Foster a culture that discourages employees from coming into work when sick
  • Review current workplace policies

Employment Law Support for Employers

Presenteeism, like absenteeism, has only negative impacts on your workforce and the business as a whole. However, the issue can be avoided if addressed correctly.

Employment Law Services (ELS) offer training courses for employers on managing absence. As well as this, our legal experts can help your organisation address any underlying issues you may be facing.

If you require employment law advice on any of the issues raised in this article, or any other employment issue give us a call today on 0370 218 5662.

Presidents Club Scandal – Should this lead to better protections for employees?

Following the undercover investigation conducted by the Financial Times, the issue of liability for third-party harassment has once again been again been challenged.

On this occasion, female hostesses are believed to have been subjected to sexual harassment by male guests at a high-profile charity event. It has been claimed that the female employees were groped and propositioned with comments of a sexual nature.

Recently, the spotlight has been firmly on sexual harassment because of high profile incidents in London and Hollywood, all of which have highlighted the gap in legal protection for employees harassed by third parties during work.

Until 2013, s40 of the Equality Act 2010 stated employers could be held liable for the harassment from third parties on their property. This meant, if the employer was aware of at least 2 previous incidents of its employees being harassed and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent this, he could be held liable for the incidents.

In 2012, the Coalition Government deemed this section of the Equality Act as an “unnecessary regulation introduced without any real or perceived need.” As a result of this, the specific protection for employees was abolished through the Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Act 2013. The Government cited a £300,000 saving from removing this legislation.  This meant that employers were now no longer liable for the harassment of their employees carried out by third parties.

A few days prior to the Presidential scandal hitting the headlines, the Fawcett Society, a society who campaign for gender equality and women’s rights published a report urging that current harassment UK legislation ought to be strengthened.  Within this report, they recommended reintroducing employer liability for third party harassment.

It has been suggested that the timing of this report and the allegations from the Presidential Club scandal will see even more pressure on the Government to reinstate previous provisions.

How can employers prevent sexual harassment in the workplace?

Whether your employees are at the office or are gathered at the works Christmas party, they should be well informed of the company’s sexual harassment policy and where to draw the line with their behaviour.

(1)    Create a strong sexual harassment policy 

Most employers should have already outlined the company’s sexual harassment policy within their employee handbook. If you have not, here is an outline of what should be included:

  • Zero tolerance statement
  • Examples of what is viewed as sexual harassment
  • A definition of sexual harassment under the Equality Act 2010
  • Complaints procedure
  • Confidentiality agreement

 (2)    Train Employees

Once a year, employers should hold training sessions for all employees. In so doing employees should be made aware of what sexual harassment is under legislation, they have the right to a workplace free of sexual harassment and should be informed of the complaints procedure and how to use it.

(3)    Train managers and supervisors 

Annually, employers should hold training sessions for supervisors and managers only. These training sessions should educate your senior members of staff about sexual harassment and how to address complaints.

(4)    Take all complaints seriously 

Should an employee approach you with a complaint of sexual harassment, this should be taken seriously. Employers should act immediately and investigate the complaint. In the event that a complaint turns out to be a valid one, employers should respond swiftly and effectively.

How can Employment Law Services (ELS) help?

If you require employment law advice on any of the issues raised in this article, or any other employment issue give us a call today on 0370 218 5662.  You can also find out more about our fixed fee HR packages here and fixed fee employment law packages here, or get in touch.