Supreme Court Rules on Plumber Employment Rights Case
Published 14 June 2018
The issue of bogus self employment has taken another turn when the UK Supreme Court decided yesterday that a plumber from Kent was employed as a worker by a plumbing company rather than self-employed.
The decision has caused further confusion on the issue of what constitutes being self employed versus being an employee. With Uber and Addison Lee both currently involved in legal disputes with their drivers over their employment status, all eyes now focused on the Government to clarify legislation on the matter.
Gary Smith worked solely for Pimlico Plumbers as an on-call plumber and heating engineer for six years. In 2010, Mr Smith suffered a heart attack and thereafter sought to reduce the number of days he worked from five to three. Mr Smith claimed that this request was rejected; furthermore the van he hired from the company was taken away and he was ultimately dismissed.
Mr Smith’s claim against Pimlico Plumbers was appealed by the company at Supreme Court, who yesterday ruled in Mr Smith’s favour. Lord Wilson in his judgment noted that although Mr Smith’s contract with the company did provide him with elements of operational and financial independence, his services to the company’s customers were ultimately marketed through the company. This included a branded uniform which he wore, branded van with a tracker fitted, and an identity card.
Furthermore his contract made reference to points such as ‘wages’, gross misconduct and restrictions on his ability to compete with Pimlico for plumbing work in the future. The ruling means that an employment tribunal can now begin to examine Mr Smith’s claim for unfair dismissal including his application for compensation.
Pimlico Plumbers have stated their intention to appeal the decision, with their Chief Executive branding it as a ‘poor decision’ that could ultimately lead to a ‘tsunami of claims’.
This decision may not have ramifications for everyone currently involved in such a dispute, or considering one. Supreme Court justices have noted that this judgment is specific to the unique facts of this case and that any disputes going forward will be determined case by case.*
Suzanne Keenan, Head of Employment at MKB Law comments: “Employment status is an extremely contentious topic at the moment and this case will be hugely significant in this area of law.
If you are an employer, and have any queries regarding the meaning of this decision for you, please do not hesitate to get in touch with myself or my team.”
*Source: The Guardian