The Supreme Court has upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision and confirmed that a plumber who was classed as self-employed was actually a ‘worker’. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal by Pimlico Plumbers and agreed that the employment status of the person in question was that of a worker which conferred basic employment rights including entitlement to the minimum wage, holiday pay and protection from discrimination.
The taxpayer had accepted an earlier decision by the employment tribunal that he was not an employee under a contract of employment, and therefore that he was not entitled to complain of unfair dismissal. However, the employment tribunal ruled that he was a worker and could legitimately proceed with three complaints, made after he had a heart attack, that an unlawful deduction had been made from his wages, that he had not been paid for a period of statutory annual leave and that he had been discriminated against by virtue of his disability.
This decision was appealed by Pimlico Plumbers to the Employment Appeal Tribunal and again to the Court of Appeal but upheld in favour of the plumber before a final appeal was made to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the employment tribunal in this long running case had been entitled to conclude that the plumber was a worker and not self-employed in business on his own account.
This is an important ruling that will likely have implications for those working in the gig economy and their ’employers’. Going forward, employers will need to look closely at how they structure flexible working arrangements and there are more important cases in the pipeline. However, it is also clear that the Courts are looking beyond the strict wording of contracts and focusing on what exact work affected individuals are doing. We are also likely to see further legislation in this area to clarify employment-rights of those working in the gig economy.