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Spate of developments on gig economy working practices

Employment Law & HR

It has certainly been a busy month for courts and tribunals grappling with employment status issues. In early June the Supreme Court issued its decision in Pimlico Plumbers Ltd & Mullins v Smith, upholding the earlier Court of Appeal, EAT and ET decisions and finding that the Claimant was a worker and therefore entitled to receive paid holidays and the national minimum / living wage.

The Court found that the Claimant was not a self-employed contractor as he had undertaken to personally perform work for Pimlico and the company was neither the Claimant’s client nor his customer. The main feature of Mr Smith’s contract which suggested he was a worker was that he was required to personally perform the work himself. His contract gave him no express unfettered right to appoint a substitute to perform his work for him, although he was allowed to pass work to other Pimlico operatives for operational or financial reasons. 

Pimlico also had tight control over the Claimant; he was required to wear branded uniform, travel in a branded van that was tracked by Pimlico and he had to follow the company’s administrative instructions. On the other hand, Mr Smith was able to reject work offered by Pimlico, take on work elsewhere and he himself took on some financial risk. However, these factors were not enough to show that Pimlico was a ‘customer or client’ of Mr Smith.

Later in June, a group of couriers working for Hermes successfully argued that they were workers and not self-employed contractors in the Leeds Employment Tribunal. While the decision is not binding as it is a first instance case, it adds further weight to the growing body of caselaw suggesting that “gig economy” staff are likely to be considered workers. Hermes has indicated that it will appeal the decision, which could affect up to 14,500 couriers.  

As if this wasn’t enough excitement for one month, June also saw the GMB union lodge a claim against Amazon on behalf of affiliated workers seeking recognition as employees. In addition, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain has been granted the right to seek judicial review of a decision that Deliveroo drivers were not workers.

If you have any concerns regarding the employment status of your contractors or workers, our Employment Law and HR teams are happy to help.

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