“Stop Press – Supreme Court ruling in Smith v Pimlico Plumbers”

The Supreme Court has just delivered its judgment in this important case where Gary Smith who had worked solely for Pimlico Plumbers for six years at the time his contract with Pimlico Plumbers was ended, and despite being independently VAT-registered and paying self-employed tax, has been given permission to pursue claims in the Employment Tribunal on the basis he is entitled to workers’ rights.

A worker is not necessarily an employee so it remains to be seen whether Mr Smith can successfully maintain a claim for unfair dismissal.

However, as a worker, he does have certain rights based on suffering an unlawful detriment due to the termination of his contract by Pimlico Plumbers. Those rights include:

  • The right to be paid at a rate no less than the national minimum wage
  • Rights under the Working Time Regulations relating to working hours
  • Whistleblower protection
  • Rights under the part-time workers regulations.

An employee is someone who works under “a contract of service or apprenticeship, whether express or implied, and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing”.

A worker is someone in the grey area between an employee and an individual who is self-employed.  Worker status is intended to benefit those individuals who are not “full” employees but who nevertheless are “tied” to the business they work for that they deserve some additional protection.

A very difficult area for everyone but all businesses who engage individuals on a self-employed basis will be concerned at to the possibility of historical claims as well as future issues.

There is some discussion already that the Government will need to step in with legislation to create a clear backdrop for businesses and workers.  The question will be what way will the Government be tipped – more in favour or employees (in recent months the Government has signalled an intent to recognise the need for protection of vulnerable workers) or business interests (which say that in a modern economy a different approach is required).

Watch this space!!!

Paul Cowdery

Employment & Dispute Resolution Partner

If you have any questions or would like to book an appointment please contact our First Contact team on 01256 320555 or mail@clarkeandson.co.uk

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