Pimlico Plumbers loses employment rights case in landmark legal battle

BRITAIN-COURTS-PLUMBER

Gary Smith, who worked for Pimlico Plumbers for almost six years from 2005, previously won a number of court rulings which determined he could claim "worker" status, even though he was described in his contract as a "self-employed operative".

The business, founded by entrepreneur Charlie Mullins, has been told that a plumber who was on its books as self-employed was entitled to benefits such as holiday and sick pay.

Britain's top judges were hearing the case of Gary Smith who worked for Pimlico Plumbers between 2005 and 2011 and first took his case to an employment tribunal almost seven years ago. This was despite him having been VAT-registered and paying self-employment taxes during his six years at the business. They ruled that Smith was subjected to "severe terms as to when and how much [Pimlico] was obliged to pay him" and this "betrayed a grip on his economy inconsistent with his being a truly independent contractor". So far, the employment tribunal and an appeal tribunal have sided with Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar and against transport behemoth Uber, prompting a further appeal.

He claimed that, after suffering a heart attack in 2011 and trying to reduce his hours, he was unfairly dismissed and the tribunal made a preliminary finding that he was a "worker" within the meaning of the 1996 Employment Rights Act.

"Its tight control over him was reflected in its requirements that he should wear the branded Pimlico uniform; drive its branded van, to which Pimlico applied a tracker; carry its identity card; and closely follow the administrative instructions of its control room."
Pimlico refused his request and took away the van.

Phil Pepper, employment partner at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, said: "This case will no doubt have an impact on both the Uber and CitySprint cases which are due to be heard by the Court of Appeal and Employment Appeal Tribunal respectively, later this year".

Wilson said Smith should be considered as a "limb (b) worker" and therefore entitled to certain rights.

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Charlie Mullins added that he was "disgusted" by the ruling, as "the five judges had the opportunity to drag our outdated employment law into the 21st Century, but instead they bottled the decision, and as a result thousands of companies across the United Kingdom, who use contractors in an honest and responsible way, remain exposed to huge potential claims in the future".

Mr Smith will now be able to go ahead with his employment tribunal claim for unfair dismissal against Pimlico Plumbers as a "worker".

Lawyer Susannah Kintish, who represented Pimlico Plumbers during the case, said the verdict will do little to end other court cases on the issue of working rights.

"The Government must now clarity the law and I hope to be part of that".

He said that this was not a victory for poorly paid workers, but rather an "exploitation" by a "highly-paid, highly-skilled man who used a loophole in current employment law to set himself up for a double pay-day".

Pimlico Plumbers CEO Charlie Mullins warned that other companies using self-employed contractors may face a "tsumani of claims" as a result of this ruling.

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