An ex-employee of Pimlico Plumbers has won a legal battle for working rights in the latest significant court ruling over employee status in the modern workplace.
Gary Smith, who had worked for the company for six years, wanted to reduce his working days following a heart attack in 2010. Smith wished to cut his five-day working week down to three.
Smith claimed his proposals were rejected and his branded van confiscated, although he had hired it himself.
He argued that he was entitled to basic workers’ rights – which would include the national minimum wage and paid holiday and the ability to bring discrimination claims.
The Court of Appeal rejected an appeal lodged by Pimlico Plumbers, who argued Smith was an “independent contractor”, rather than a worker or an employee.
After the ruling, Mr Mullins, the founder of Pimlico Plumbers, welcomed the clarity offered by the courts and said that he had already changed contracts with those who worked on a self-employed basis.
The government has commissioned four experts, led by Mathew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Arts, to look into the issue of workers’ rights in the “gig” economy.
The review is addressing questions of job security, pension, holiday and parental leave rights. It is also looking at “employer freedoms and obligations”.
The ruling is the latest decision in a ream of landmark court challenges launched by gig economy workers who feel they should be get the same benefits as full-time employees.
Maria Ludkin, the GMB union’s legal director, said:
“This case, like the Uber case last October, is yet another victory for the bogus self-employed who have been treated appallingly by their employer.
“All they want is basic employment rights as are enjoyed by the majority, including the right to be paid a minimum wage and holiday pay.
“While these plumbers are making Charlie Mullins even more millions, he needs to get his house in order and start respecting basic workers’ rights.”
Employment law experts said the news would have significant implications.
Rachel Farr, senior employment lawyer in the Employment, Pensions & Mobility group at international law firm Taylor Wessing, comments on this news:
“As the Court of Appeal has pointed out, the question of employment status is “a live one”. The other recent cases, however, have only been at tribunal level. The judgment of the Court of Appeal will be relevant to the decision in the forthcoming EAT appeal by Uber and to all other gig economy employment status cases in the news at present.
“As lawyers we need to remember that this case has arisen because of the muddled contractual paperwork (which started badly, referring to “sub-contracted employees”) versus reality. The Court of Appeal warns that contracts which do not reflect the true nature of the relationship will be vulnerable.”