A decision by the Supreme Court regarding the rights of a self-employed contractor is expected to have huge implications for the gig economy. Pimlico Plumbers lost its appeal this morning against a Court of Appeal ruling that one of the plumbers, Gary Smith, was a worker rather than self-employed.
Smith, who had worked exclusively for Pimlico Plumbers between August 2005 and April 2011 claimed to have been dismissed following a heart attack and the Tribunal found in his favour, meaning he was entitled to worker rights and benefits, including access to sickness and holiday pay, and reasonable adjustments. In February 2017, the Court of Appeal found that Smith was a worker because he was required to use the Pimlico branded van for work and cover a minimum number of hours a week.
Commented Tar Tumber, Director of Employee Relations International Workplace: “More and more people’s working lives resemble Mr Smith’s and are therefore increasingly difficult to define. Generally, there are three forms of employment status: employee, self-employed and something in between, called a worker. The latter have some rights, but not as many as employees. Self-employed contractors have the bare minimum.”
Today’s decision will therefore have huge ramifications for anyone employing contractors.
Said Philip Richardson, Head of Employment Law at Stephensons: “While stopping short of setting a precedent, the Supreme Court judgement has nonetheless applied pressure to legislators to ‘sort out’ the growing confusion surrounding the gig economy.
“While some employers will argue that these casual working arrangements promote greater flexibility and independence, there appears to be growing alarm at the frequency with which these cases are coming before tribunals and the courts. Mr Smith’s case is one of a number of high profile disputes which have put the employment practices under the spotlight.
“In my view, given today’s decision and the ongoing Taylor Review into working practices, it is now a matter of ‘when, not if’ legislation is brought in to prevent employers from using these gig economy models.”
Added Michelle Morgan senior associate at Gardner Leader solicitors: “This decision will undoubtedly result in massive changes to the way in which the gig economy is run. Businesses will need to alter their models to minimise the risk of worker status being invoked and the rights that accompany such status.
“The decision is an important one as on the one hand there is the need to protect the rights of those who work in the gig economy, whilst preserving the ethos of such a business model; with flexibility being at the heart of it.”
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