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13 Feb 2017

Plumber wins landmark case for workers´ rights in gig economy

A plumber from London has won a legal battle for employment rights, which could have a knock-on effect on the UK´s burgeoning ‘gig´ economy, the Independent reports.

Gary Smith worked for Pimlico Plumbers on a self-employed basis for six years leading to 2011. After being dismissed following a heart attack, Smith sued the company for sick pay and argues that he was entitled to basic workers´ rights.

The Court of Appeal has just agreed with a previous tribunal decision that the plumbers are workers, not employees.

Being given ‘worker´ status means that although Smith was technically self-employed – he was VAT registered and paying tax on a self-employed basis – he was entitled to basic workers´ rights such as paid holiday, the national minimum wage and the opportunity to bring forward discrimination claims.

Mr Smith suffered from a heart attack in 2010, after which he requested to reduce his five-day week with the firm to three. Smith claims this was refused and he was dismissed; his company van, which he had hired, was taken away from him.

Founder of Pimlico Plumbers, Charlie Mullins, said that plumbers were hired on a self-employed basis, providing their own materials and being paid significantly more as they did not have workers´ benefits.

He said that he would be talking to his lawyers and would likely take the case to Supreme Court. In the meantime, he has changed the contracts of those working on a self-employed basis.

Meanwhile, Mr Smith´s solicitor, Jacqueline McGuigan, called the court´s decision “huge,” noting that it had clarified the different working models that exist. It is the highest court to consider such a case, and similar disputes among those in the growing ‘gig´ economy will have taken note.

However, one of the judges in the case, Lord Justice Underhill, warned that employment lawyers “should be careful about trying to draw any very general conclusions” from this case.

Copyright © M2 Bespoke 2017

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