Plumber Wins Workers’ Rights Battle Against Pimlico Plumbers in Supreme Court

James Williams

On the 13th June 2018 the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of Pimlico Plumbers and agreed with the Court of Appeal decision that Mr Smith was a worker and not a self-employed contractor.

Mr Smith worked as a plumber, carrying out work for Pimlico Plumbers between 2005 and 2011. In 2011 Mr Smith suffered from a heart attack and claimed he had been unfairly dismissed even though for VAT and income tax he presented himself as self-employed.

Pimlico Plumbers had a business model which presented those carrying out work as working for the business itself. At the same time Pimlico Plumbers maintained that the relationship was self-employed independent contractors, not Employer and Employee.

The Employment Tribunal, the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Court of Appeal all reached the decision that Mr Smith was in fact a worker rather than a self-employed contractor. The Supreme Court have now also agreed with that finding.

The Courts looked at Mr Smith’s circumstances when determining if he was a worker. Whether someone is a worker or not is largely a matter of fact. Lord Wilson determined that, “the dominant feature of Mr Smith’s contracts with Pimlico was an obligation of personal performance …there were features of the contract which strongly militated against recognition of Pimlico as a client or customer of Mr Smith. 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. The severe terms as to when and how much it was obliged to pay him, on which it relied, betrayed a grip on his economy inconsistent with his being a truly independent contractor.”.

The conclusion was that the Supreme Court dismissed Pimlico Plumbers appeal stating the substantive claims of Mr Smith as a worker could proceed to be heard in the tribunal.

James Williams – Solicitor

James Williams

I am a qualified Employment Law and HR Solicitor. I specialise in acting for schools and advise on all aspects of employment law and HR including attending employee meetings, advising senior leaders, conducting redundancy consultations, drafting contracts of employment, advising on policies and procedures and negotiating settlement agreements.