Case will impact on employment law

A Supreme Court hearing later today (20 February) will have “significant ramifications” on employment law for a number of industries, including the media, the health service and the construction industry.

Pimlico Plumbers is appealing the case of Gary Smith, who, despite being paid more than £500,000 over three years by the firm, sued for employment rights, even though he had previously signed a contract as a self-employed contractor.

The case, which has been running for more than six years, was heard by the Court of Appeal last February after Mr Smith had won a number of lower court rulings that determined he could claim ‘worker’ status, despite what his contract stated.

This was because the Court concluded that he was required to use the firm’s van for assignments and was contractually obliged to work a minimum number of hours per week.

As a result of this ruling, Mr Smith was entitled to bring legal claims against Pimlico Plumbers relating to holiday pay, disability discrimination and unauthorised wage deduction.

It will be the first time that the Supreme Court has considered workers’ rights in the so-called ‘gig economy’, so its ruling could have ramifications for other high-profile cases, such as Uber, that are coming through the courts at the moment.

Speaking before the hearing, Pimlico Plumbers’ Chief Executive, Charlie Mullins described it as a “ground-breaking case” that will affect a lot of businesses, not just Pimlico Plumbers.

He added that he had been delighted to see the term ‘dependant contractor’ in the recent report by policy expert Matthew Taylor, as, to him, this described Mr Smith much better than the current loosely defined category of ‘worker’.

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Donna Martin

Donna Martin

Partner at Mackrell Turner Garrett
Donna Martin is a Partner in the Employment team at Mackrell Turner Garrett’s London office. She advises both employers and employees on a full range of contentious and non-contentious issues. As an employment law expert, Donna has significant experience in drafting employment contracts and handbooks, advising on grievance and disciplinary procedures and preparatory work prior to tribunals, including advising on the advantages and disadvantages of settling cases.