Gig economy on trial: Plumber wins workers’ rights dispute in Supreme Court showdown

By on

First Uber, now Pimlico Plumbers

Image credit: Instagram (@thisgirlobsessed)

Supreme Court judges have handed down their long-awaited Pimlico Plumbers judgment, ruling in favour of the claimant, in a case that has far-reaching consequences for employment law.

At this case’s heart is ‘worker status’. Gary Smith, a heating engineer who undertook work for the London plumbing business between 2005 and 2011, wanted the courts to recognise he was a worker. This would allow him to bring legal claims against the plumbing business relating to disability discrimination, holiday pay and unauthorised wage deduction.

The plumbing firm maintained Smith was a self-employed contractor, Pimlico Plumbers founder Charlie Mullins saying: “If there was ever a case of someone wanting their cake and eating it, this is it.”

In a unanimous ruling handed down this morning, Ladies Hale and Black and Lords Wilson, Hughes and Lloyd-Jones sided with Smith. 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”. The judgment said:

“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.”

Wilson, who wrote the lead judgment, this morning explained that “Smith wins the case and the tribunal can proceed to examine his claims as a worker”.

Matrix Chambers‘ Thomas Linden QC and Devereux Chambers‘ Akash Nawbatt QC represented Pimlico Plumbers and Mullins, as instructed by Mishcon de Reya. Karon Monaghan QC, also of Matrix fame, 1MCB’s David Stephenson and TMP Solicitors acted for Smith.

Worker status seems to be the panacea of all our employment law woes of late, these seemingly brought about by the advent of the so-called gig economy. Here, people are paid for each ‘gig’ they complete, be that a car ride (Uber), a food delivery (Deliveroo) or a plumbing job (Pimlico Plumbers).

The 2018 Firms Most List

The cherished status is at the heart of the much-publicised Aslam and Farrar case, brought by two Uber drivers who claim they’re entitled to employment rights such as minimum wage and protection from working excessive hours. 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. The outcome of today’s case is likely to have an impact on Aslam and Farrar.

The Supreme Court justices that heard the Pimlico Plumbers case. Image credit: © UK Supreme Court / Kevin Leighton

It’s not just Uber drivers chasing worker rights.

A district judge hoping to take advantage of whistleblowing legislation also sought to be classified as a worker. She wasn’t successful: the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled judges don’t have an employment contract. Elsewhere, a law PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast has turned to the courts to claim employee status, claiming a “catalogue of failings” at the law school led to his alleged constructive dismissal from his teaching post.

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter




Now we just need justice for Mr Robinson…


Alex aldridge

I want to give you a big sloppy kiss


Corbyn. Sympathiser

Mr. Robinson has gotten justice. He was told that attempts to interfere with court proceedings would land him inside, and lo and behold it has happened. He entered a guilty plea, which was accepted. He is guilty by his own admission.



You’re an imposter. Cuck.


Corbyn. Sympathiser

It’s telling that you impugn my authenticity rather than address the facts.



I just realised I don’t know what impugn actually means. I looked it up in my dictionary but to be honest I cant understand the words. I can read them but I cant understand what they mean.



Mr Mullins sums this up appropriately, a man who wants to have his cake and eat it.

How can it be that one can take the benefits that come with being self-employed, turn down an offer of employment, and then later issue a claim where he alleges he was a worker.

The Claimant has had the tax benefits that come with self-employment, and will now receive the additional benefits of worker status, back-dated!



My understanding is that PP are appealing this decision to the EAT so the its not over yet!

I cannot understand why the SC would say someone who is self employed is also a worker. It makes no sense at all. Either you are self employed, or you are a worker. The plumber already said he is a worker so what is the argument about??

We will see what the EAT have to say about this!


The Brown Knight

The EAT are unlikely to get around to this anytime soon. The backlog since the fees ruling has meant the EAT are unable to find time to scratch their balls at lunch time, never mind take time to worry about a plumber being unfairly dismissed.

Who cares if he was unfairly dismissed and why are the supreme court dealing with employment law whihc was designated to the employment tribunals whihc is not even a real court



He easnt unfairly dismissed you dilwod – this was a discrimination case and there is no need to show 3 years continuous service for equality act claims. You can bring a claim after 6 months for racial abuse and pregnancy harassment!

Lot of stupid people here..



Technically, you can bring a claim for discrimination without ever working a day



Why do you spell which like that?



Because I can



This is why I prefer electricians to plumbers.


Fox in duck outfit

OMG Racist !!!!!!


Comments are closed.

Related Stories