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.