Latest Case on the “Gig Economy”

In the latest case in the gig economy, the Supreme Court has ruled that a heating engineer, working for Pimlico Plumbers, was a worker and not self-employed.

Mr Gary Smith worked for Pimlico Plumbers as a plumber and heating engineer. He was dismissed after 6 years. Pimlico argued that Mr Smith was self-employed and therefore did not benefit from any employment rights.

The question of employment status in Mr Smith’s case reached the Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled that Mr Smith was a worker and not self-employed. He was therefore entitled to rights associated with workers status, for example sick pay and holiday pay.

In examining the reality of Mr Smith’s relationship with Pimlico, the Supreme Court noted that Mr Smith’s contract did provide him with elements of independence commensurate with self-employed status. However, his services to Pimlico’s customers were marketed through the Company, Pimlico exercised tight administrative controls over Mr Smith during his periods of work, imposed stringent conditions regarding payment to him and restricted his ability to compete post-termination of the relationship. The Court considered that although some aspects of Mr Smith’s terms and conditions resembled self-employment, on balance, he was not a truly independent contractor.  He wore a branded uniform, had a tracker in his branded van and carried an identity card.

The Supreme Court’s ruling has wide reaching implications for thousands of workers like Mr Smith who could now find themselves with benefits like sick pay and holiday pay, which are associated with worker status.