Blog: Employment lawyer Karen Coleman on today’s Supreme Court ruling

Following earlier favourable decisions in lower courts, a plumber has again won his legal battle for working rights in a Supreme Court ruling.
Gary Smith had worked solely for Pimlico Plumbers for six years. Despite being VAT-registered and paying self-employed tax, the court confirmed that he was entitled to workers’ rights, rejecting Pimlico’s appeal against earlier decisions in Mr Smith’s favour.
The ruling will be closely read by others with similar disputes, many of whom work for firms in the so-called gig economy and who include Uber drivers.
Commenting on the ruling, Staffordshire employment lawyer Karen Coleman, of Excello Law, said that whilst significant, this did not set a precedent that could be applied across all so-called gig economy cases.
“Every case is treated on its own merits and we are waiting for potential new Government legislation in this area of employment law,” said Baddeley Green based Karen.
“The Government is consulting on new legislation regarding employee, worker and self-employed status and if introduced, this decision may no longer be relevant. One of the government’s proposals includes an online tool to determine employment status and if this were to work, the certainty it would produce would be welcome.”
The Supreme Court ruling means that an employment tribunal can now proceed to examine Mr Smith’s actions against Pimlico Plumbers as a worker for holiday pay, unlawful deductions from his wages and that Pimlico discriminated against him when he was dismissed as a result of a disability.
Mr Smith, from Kent, began his battle with Pimlico Plumbers when he wanted to reduce his hours following a heart attack in 2010.
He wanted to cut the five-day week, which he had been signed up to work with the firm, to three.
However, the firm refused and took away his branded van, which he had hired. He claims he was dismissed. The Supreme court judgment includes :
“Pimlico’s 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.”