Landmark ruling in Pimlico Plumbers case will have major impact on ‘gig economy’

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Charlie Mullins OBE

Charlie Mullins OBE

A plumber who had worked for Charlie Mullins’ Pimlico Plumbers for six years has won a legal battle in the Supreme Court where the ruling is set to have a large impact on freelance work regulations.

Gary Smith had been a VAT-registered and self-employed taxpayer, but it was ruled that he was entitled to basic workers rights.

The potential ramifications to the ‘Gig Economy’ could be far reaching, and many similar disputes across the UK will be using this as the precedence in legal battles.

Reacting to the case Charlie Mullins OBE, Pimlico Pumbers’ Chief Executive said: “This was a poor decision that will potentially leave thousands of companies, employing millions of contractors, wondering if one day soon they will get nasty surprise from a former contractor demanding more money, despite having been paid in full years ago.

“It can only lead to a tsunami of claims.”

Experienced employment solicitor and senior associate at Gardner Leader solicitors, Michelle Morgan comments on the changes it will have on the gig economy.

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She said: “The Supreme Court has unanimously dismissed the appeal by Pimlico Plumbers in which it ruled that the tribunal was entitled to conclude that Mr Smith (the plumber) qualified as a ‘worker’. This ruling means that an employment tribunal can now proceed to examine his claims against Pimlico Plumbers as a worker, including a claim that he was unfairly dismissed. The Supreme Court’s ruling will have big ramifications for other high-profile employment cases that are coming through the courts. One involving Uber drivers will go to the Court of Appeal later this year; Uber is looking to overturn a decision that backed two drivers seeking to be recognised as workers and not self-employed.

“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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Business Leader will be producing a wider feature on the future of the gig economy following this announcement. 

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