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Supreme Plumbers
Regular readers will be familiar with the Pimlico Plumbers case involving Gary Smith who took the plumbing company to an employment tribunal claiming that he was not self-employed as was described in the contract he had with them.

The case started in 2012 when an employment tribunal decided that, although Mr Smith was not an employee, he was a worker. Pimlico appealed to both the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal. Both appeals were dismissed. They then appealed to the Supreme Court and that has recently unanimously dismissed the appeal holding that Mr Smith was a worker – a status part way between being an employee and self-employed. It means that he will have the right to holiday pay, sick pay and participation in the company’s auto-enrolment pension scheme.

The Supreme Court judgment noted that, although Smith could nominate another plumber to take on a job for him, this power of substitution was limited in scope as it had to be a plumber under contract with Pimlico.

In assessing the employment status, they also said Pimlico had a large degree of control over Mr Smith’s “appearance and the cleanliness of his uniform” and his ability to compete with the company when he ceased to carry out jobs for it.

The decision is not unexpected, but it just reiterates the importance of not only having clear written agreements – but making sure that you use the clauses, so that they are not considered to be sham contracts, if as a business, you want to engage individuals on a genuine independent contractor basis.

The Supreme Court’s decision will be binding on the courts below it, so the judgment will be of interest to companies such as Uber and Deliveroo who have also been fighting high-profile cases relating to employee status.
Posted on 25 Jun 2018


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