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Gig Economy Case Heads To The Supreme Court

Employment Lawyer Highlights Importance Of The Case


David Shirt, Press Officer | 0161 838 3094

The high profile legal case involving Pimlico Plumbers will be heard at the Supreme Court on 20 February 2018.

The ruling from the UK’s highest court will not be handed down until later in the year and according to lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, the decision will have major repercussions for the gig economy and businesses such as Uber and Deliveroo.

The dispute involving Pimlico Plumbers Ltd v Smith focuses on whether individuals who are expressly engaged as self-employed contractors are, in fact, workers or even employees.

Pimlico entered into contractual arrangements with its plumbers to provide services to its clients and the plumbers were required to use their own tools, take responsibility for their work and provide indemnity insurance.

The plumbers though gave the appearance of working for Pimlico as they wore a uniform, drove vans which displayed the Pimlico brand and customers paid Pimlico for the work undertaken.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal initially found that the plumbers were workers (a status not recognised by HMRC who only have two classifications 'employee or self-employed') – but not employees.

The matter was then referred to the Court of Appeal for a hearing in January last year. The plumbing company took he case to the Court of appeal and lost the case.

Expert Opinion
“The outcome of the case could be significant and if it rules against Pimlico it will mean that the plumbers will be entitled to basic workers’ rights such as the National Minimum Wage and paid holiday. They will also be able to bring discrimination claims.

“It could have wider repercussions too. It is estimated that as many as five million people work in the gig economy, getting paid for ‘gigs’ they do, such as delivering food, packages or making car journeys.

“One implication of the acquisition of workers’ rights could well be a threat to the economic viability of the gig economy model. If national minimum wages, rest breaks and holiday pay leads to an inevitable increase in the overheads of engaging people to work, prices for the consumer will increase. That could reach a level where demand for the services tails off and a sector that created the ability for millions of individuals to work flexibly shrinks or even disappears.”
Alan Lewis, Partner