The Supreme Court hears a key gig economy case today as Pimlico Plumbers challenges last year’s Court of Appeal decision that a plumber who signed an agreement with the company describing him as self-employed was in fact a worker.
A year ago, in Pimlico Plumbers Ltd and another v Smith, the Court of Appeal ruled that the plumber was a worker under statutory provisions entitling him to rights as a worker.
Gary Smith was required under the agreement to wear a Pimlico Plumbers uniform, use a van leased from the company, displaying its logo and equipped with a GPS tracker. He also had to work a minimum number of hours per week.
However, he could choose when he worked, which jobs he would attend, but had to provide his own tools and equipment, and handle his own tax and insurance.
Mr Smith brought an employment tribunal claim that was dependent on him being classified as a “worker”.
When Mr Smith’s case reached the Court of Appeal, it accepted that he was a worker, entitling him to some basic employment rights such as the right to be paid the national minimum wage and holiday pay.
The Court of Appeal was swayed in particular by the claimant’s requirement to provide his services personally. His agreement with Pimlico Plumbers did not allow him to substitute someone else to do the work.
Charlie Mullins, 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 claimed the 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…