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The Plumber's Tale
It would have been difficult to have missed the news about the latest case involving a dispute over the employment status of an individual working for a London plumbing company.

Gary Smith worked full-time for Pimlico Plumbers for six years apparently as a self-employed plumber. However he had a heart attack in 2010 and subsequently asked if he could reduce his working hours to three days a week. The company refused his request and took away his hired company van. Mr Smith took his case to an employment tribunal and argued that he was entitled to basic workers’ rights, including the right to the national minimum wage, paid holiday and the ability to bring discrimination claims

Pimlico argued that their plumbers were hired as ‘independent contractors’, not workers or employees – and that although they provided their own materials and did not have workers’ benefits, they were paid significantly more than PAYE employees.

The case ended up in the Court of Appeal; it found in Mr Smith’s favour upholding an earlier tribunal decision that, although the plumbers were not employees, they were workers, and as such were entitled to holiday pay, sick pay and other benefits despite being technically self-employed.

The ruling follows a number of similar employee rights disputes, including tribunal rulings against bike courier firm CitySprint and taxi service app Uber, that have been found in the workers’ favours (both reported here previously.)

These cases are all fact-specific, but it is becoming increasingly important to make sure that if you have individuals providing services to your business, that you are clear about those working arrangements. Getting it wrong could be very costly with regards to the potential liability for unpaid holiday, pensions and other entitlements, particularly where there is more than one worker involved.

Given the publicity these cases have received, it is possible that those working for you may seek to press their cases if they think that they have been denied benefits, so if you have concerns about your workforce and would like to discuss them, please get in touch.
Posted on 22 Feb 2017

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