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LEGAL UPDATE: Supreme Court Decision Announces in Pimlico Plumbers Case

The Supreme Court has delivered its ruling on the landmark Pimlico Plumbers case, upholding previous decisions that a ‘self-employed’ plumber was in fact a ‘worker’. This entitled him to a variety of employment rights under UK law, including discrimination protection and holiday pay. The case has continued to make headline news because of its impact on organisations operating in the ‘gig economy’.

The case centred on the employment status of Mr Gary Smith, a plumber who worked on a self-employed basis with Pimlico Plumbers for approximately six years until 2011. Both the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal supported Mr Smith’s position that he was a ‘worker’ with certain employment rights, including holiday pay. Pimlico Plumbers appealed the case to the Supreme Court. Pimlico Plumbers has lost that appeal, with the Supreme Court supporting previous rulings.

In the Supreme Court’s view, the fact that Pimlico Plumbers exercised control over Mr Smith, imposed conditions around how much it paid him and, on his clothing, and appearance for work, all supported the conclusion that he was a ‘worker’ and not genuinely self-employed. It also noted that the dominant feature of his relationship with the Pimlico Plumbers was that he would do the work personally, rather than be able to pass it on to a substitute contractor, even though he did have the option to pass work to another Pimlico Plumber operative.

In reality these cases are limited to the very particular facts of their arrangements and do not significantly clarify or change the law in relation to worker status. They do, however, serve as a reminder that courts will look at the reality of the situation, over and above what is in any written documentation.

If you need help and advice regarding determining whether individuals are workers or employees, please do not hesitate to contact me or the employment team on 0113 350 4030 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

If you would like to be kept up to date with employment law and dispute resolution updates, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

Richard Newstead

Richard qualified as a Legal Executive over 20 years ago and has significant experience in Employment law and Litigation.

Richard acts for both employers and employees drafting and advising on settlement agreements, contracts of employment, consultancy agreements, directors service agreements and general workplace policies. He acts for commercial clients in the employment tribunal dealing with unfair dismissals, constructive dismissals and claims for discrimination.
Richard Newstead

Latest posts by Richard Newstead (see all)

Richard Newstead

Richard qualified as a Legal Executive over 20 years ago and has significant experience in Employment law and Litigation. Richard acts for both employers and employees drafting and advising on settlement agreements, contracts of employment, consultancy agreements, directors service agreements and general workplace policies. He acts for commercial clients in the employment tribunal dealing with unfair dismissals, constructive dismissals and claims for discrimination.

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