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10 February 2017

Employment status: Court of Appeal holds that plumbers are “workers”

The Court of Appeal has dismissed Pimlico Plumbers’ appeal against the tribunal and EAT decisions that Mr Smith, a plumber, was a worker for Pimlico Plumbers rather than a self-employed contractor.  It considered Mr Smith satisfied the definition of worker in that he was required to provide his services personally as there was no unfettered right to provide a substitute and he was not in business on his own account.  This means he is entitled to paid holiday, can claim unlawful deductions from wages and is protected against discrimination. The Court considered the case “puts a spotlight on a business model under which operatives are intended to appear to clients of the business as working for the business, but at the same time the business itself seeks to maintain that, as between itself and the operatives, there is a legal relationship of client or customer and independent contractor rather than employee or worker.” 

Identifying employment status for non-standard forms of employment is becoming increasingly complicated particularly in the light of the so-called gig economy which has driven new forms of working through digital platforms.   At the end of last year the government commissioned a six month review led by Matthew Taylor on how employment practices need to change to keep pace with modern business models.  The government has also recently published the results of a two-year old review on employment status from 2015, which may be taken into consideration by the Taylor review.  The 2015 review proposes reforms which include the radical suggestion of a rebuttable presumption of employee status which it recognises would be a “game changer”.  The outcome of the Taylor review is awaited with interest.