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UK Supreme Court rejects appeal from Pimlico Plumbers

The Supreme Court has unanimously dismissed an appeal from Pimlico Plumbers which claimed Gary Smith, who worked at the company for six years, was self-employed.


The Supreme Court ruled that Smith qualified as a "worker".


Smith is a plumbing and heating engineer. Between August 2005 and April 2011 he worked for Pimlico Plumbers, owned by Charlie Mullins.


The Supreme Court said Smith had worked for the company under two written agreements (the second of which replaced the first in 2009). These agreements were drafted in quite confusing terms.


In August 2011, Smith issued proceedings against the company and Mullins before the employment tribunal alleging that he had been unfairly dismissed, 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.


The employment tribunal decided that Smith had not been an employee under a contract of employment, and therefore that he was not entitled to complain of unfair dismissal, a finding that Smith does not now challenge, but that Smith was a “worker”.


These findings meant that Smith could legitimately proceed with his latter three complaints and directions were made for their substantive consideration at a later date. The appellants (Pimlico Plumbers and Mullins) appealed this decision to an appeal tribunal and then to the Court of Appeal, but were unsuccessful. They consequently appealed to the Supreme Court.


However, the Supreme Court found Smith to be a "worker" therefore he can no go ahead with his substantive claims.


Nigel Morris, employment tax director at MHA MacIntyre Hudson, said: “The decision is not being considered to be a game changer as, while there are similarities with other cases, each case is decided on its own fact patterns and circumstances. Companies have different ways of working, different contracts and different ways in which they manage their contractors.


“The facts in this case were very specific. What swung it for Smith were the terms on which he was engaged enabled Pimlico Plumbers to exercise tight administrative control over him during his periods of work for them.


“The government continues to look at this area and has previously stated its support for last year’s Taylor Review into working practices, which concluded that all work in the UK’s economy should be "fair and decent" and that people who work for platform-based companies, such as Deliveroo and Uber, should be classed as dependent workers with appropriate rights.”


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