Pimlico plumbers ‘gig economy’ case heads to Supreme Court

Credit: UK Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has granted Pimlico Plumbers permission to appeal against a high-profile employment ruling made by the Appeal Court that one of its self-employed contractors was in fact an employee.

The case centres around the employment status of Gary Smith, a plumber who worked on a self-employment contract exclusively for Pimlico Plumbers for six years between 2005 – 2011.

Pimlico Plumbers is appealing the decision of the Court of Appeal in London that it should have classed Gary Smith as a “worker” rather than self-employed.

Appeal judges ruled in February that Mr Smith was entitled to basic employment rights, including holiday pay and the national minimum wage.

Rachel Farr, senior lawyer in the Employment, Pensions & Mobility group at international law firm Taylor Wessing, comments:

“The Supreme Court’s judgment will be as important to mainstream businesses (many of whom use self-employed contractors) as to gig economy platforms. We have not yet heard how or if the government intends to implement the findings of the Taylor Review, but the Supreme Court’s decision will also be applied by UK courts in other cases.”

Law firm Mishcon de Reya, which represents Pimlico Plumbers, announced on Tuesday that the company had been granted permission to take the case to the Supreme Court.

The decision will be the highest case authority in the UK on the employment status of “gig economy” employers.

The law firm stated:

“In arriving at a judgment in this case, the Supreme Court will have to wrestle with important but difficult public policy questions about the type of worker that UK employment law is supposed to protect, and the impact such protections have on UK businesses.

“The law on employment status has been somewhat confused for some time now. Working arrangements are increasingly breaking free of the traditional employer-employee relationship, largely as a result of advances in technology.

“When faced with such atypical working arrangements, the courts and tribunals have increasingly resorted to finding ‘worker’ status.

“It is hoped that the Supreme Court will offer clear guidance and go some way to clarifying the law in this area.”

A date has not yet been set for the Supreme Court appeal, but the ruling is likely to have wide-ranging consequences for businesses, especially – but not exclusively – those in the so-called ‘gig economy’.

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