By DebbieH 14 Aug 2018 7 min read

Plumber wins workers’ rights battle

A plumber has recently succeeded in winning a legal battle for working rights in a Supreme Court ruling, which is expected to have huge ramifications for freelance workers.

Gary Smith had worked for Pimlico Plumbers for 6 years.

The court ruled that despite being VAT-registered and also paying self-employed tax, Gary was entitled to workers’ rights.

An employment tribunal was “entitled to conclude” that Mr Smith was a worker, the court ruled. As a worker Mr Smith would be entitled to employment rights, including holiday and sick pay.

The ruling will be positive news to others with similar disputes, many of whom work for firms in the so-called gig economy.

Chief executive of Pimlico Plumbers Charlie Mullins said: “This was a poor decision that will potentially leave thousands of companies, employing millions of contractors, wondering if one day soon they will get nasty surprise from a former contractor demanding more money, despite having been paid in full years ago.

“It can only lead to a tsunami of claims,” he added.

However, Tim Goodwin of law firm Winckworth Sherwood warned that the ruling may not apply to other complaints.

“Even with a high level decision like this, to a degree the issue of employment status in the gig economy is up in the air.

“The government is consulting on this issue, and may bring forward legislation. So it’s quite possible that Parliament may overrule this decision within the next few months or years.”

Alan Lewis, employment partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell said the decision was not a “game changer” and that cases would continue to be argued on their specific facts.

“This decision is not necessarily a win for ‘gig economy’ workers seeking to challenge their employment status.”

Pimlico Plumbers does “not operate a gig model and the implications for Uber, City Sprint, Deliveroo etc may be limited, although the publicity around this case may encourage other ‘self employed’ contractors to challenge their legal status,” added Mr Lewis.

The ruling means that an employment tribunal can now proceed to examine Mr Smith’s action against Pimlico Plumbers as a worker, including a claim that he was unfairly dismissed.