The Court of Appeal has got stuck in on the question of employment status and the gig economy. It confirmed that a so-called “self-employed” plumber, was actually a “worker”, with the resultant employment rights (the right to paid holiday, pension, minimum wage, sick pay and protection from discrimination among others).
This is a potential boost to others working in the gig economy, although it must be remembered that each case will differ depending on the circumstances.
In Pimlico Plumbers & Charlie Mullins v Gary Smith, the Court of Appeal upheld the decisions of the Employment Tribunal (ET) and Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).
It confirmed that Mr Smith (who was not an employee since there was no obligation on Pimlico Plumbers to provide work or even, in some circumstances, to pay him for the work he had done) was a “worker”.
There was a contract for Mr Smith to personally provide work for Pimlico Plumbers and no unfettered right to provide those services through a substitute.
The Court of Appeal held that the ET had been entitled to find that Mr Smith was not in business on his own account.
This was because the degree of control exercised by Pimlico Plumbers was inconsistent with it being a customer or client of a business run by Mr Smith, and Mr Smith was an integral part of Pimlico Plumbers’ operations.
The original ET decision had been influenced by the fact that the plumbers wore uniforms, they were contractually obliged to do a minimum number of hours a week, and were subject to post-termination restrictions.
We wait to see whether this case will be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Although each case of employment status will be decided on its own facts, this is consistent with the trend for individuals engaged in the gig economy being found to be workers.
Businesses which engage such individuals may wish to review those relationships in light of these decisions.
We are still awaiting the results of government and independent reviews of the changing nature of the workplace which may throw the question of the gig economy and employment status even further into the spotlight.