Pimlico Plumbers Employment Case Should Have Wide Implications For Workers’ Rights

The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by plumbing company Pimlico Plumbers in a decision that should have wide implications for workers’ rights.

Giving the lead judgment in Pimlico Plumbers Ltd and another v Smith, Lord Wilson upheld judgments from the employment tribunal and the Court of Appeal. The decision clarified that plumber Gary Smith’s work for the company met the definition of ’employment’ under section 83(2)(a) of the Equality Act.

Definition relied on being classed as a ‘limb worker’

Wilson said Smith should be considered as a ‘limb (b) worker’ and therefore entitled to certain rights. So called ‘workers’ do not enjoy the full range of employment protection rights that full-time staff do but are entitled to elements including holiday pay.

The case was closely watched by employment lawyers and those who operate in the so-called ‘gig-economy’.

What made Smith a limb worker?

Smith proved he was a limb worker, despite being paid and taxed on a self-employed basis and providing his own tools and equipment, by proving he:

  • worked solely for Pimlico
  • was required to wear the company uniform
  • rented a branded van
  • was required to work a minimum number of weekly hours. However, he could choose when he worked and which jobs he took.

Smith wanted to work three days a week rather than five after suffering a heart attack in 2010. Pimlico refused his request and took away the van.

Action to follow against Pimlico Plumbers

An employment tribunal ruled that Smith was a worker, but not an employee. Pimlico appealed that decision but both the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal backed the tribunal’s finding.

The Supreme Court’s decision paves the way for Smith to take action against Pimlico Plumbers as a worker, including a claim that he was unfairly dismissed.

Need help?

If you employ people and are unsure of the rights they should have or, you think you have been treated unfairly by the company you work for, contact our Senior Partner and Business expert, Gideon Cristofoli.  Gideon runs free 30 minute sessions on a Tuesday afternoon. You can book this or make a full appointment by calling our offices on 01420 82881 or emailing enquiries@bookersandbolton.co.uk.