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Plumber wins major workers’ rights case!

BY Donald MacKinnon
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

A plumber has won a major legal battle with his employer about his employment status.

Gary Smith, who worked on a self-employed basis for Pimlico Plumbers had a heart attack in 2010 and wanted to reduce the number of days he worked. This was refused, and he had his branded company van removed. He claimed he was dismissed. The Court of Appeal ruled that although he was technically engaged on a self-employed basis, he was entitled to basic workers’ rights because Pimlico Plumbers did not allow him to work for another employer which fundamentally changed the employment status.

Pimlico Plumbers argue that although they do not have workers’ rights such and sick pay and holiday pay, they are paid significantly more than an employee, and use their own materials. This case is similar to the Uber case when self-employed drivers were granted workers’ rights last year.

If you have self-employed contractors working for you, it is important to ensure that they are fulfilling the criteria of someone working on a freelance basis. If your contractors do not fall into any of these areas, it may harm your argument if taken to tribunal.

  • They’re in business for themselves, are responsible for the success or failure of their business and can make a loss or a profit
  • They can decide what work they do and when, where or how to do it
  • They can hire someone else to do the work
  • They’re responsible for fixing any unsatisfactory work in their own time
  • They use their own money to buy business assets, cover running costs, and provide tools and equipment for their work
  • They can work for more than one client

The most important factor in this case was that Mr Smith was very tightly controlled when he worked for Pimlico Plumbers and was unable to work for others. This case is going to be one of many in this area so it is likely that further rulings will be made that should give greater clarity in what is currently quite a grey area.  

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