The Supreme Court has made an important decision in a case which involves Pimlico Plumbers. The person who brought the case, Mr Smith, has been found to be a “worker”. This means he has rights under the Working Time Regulations and is able to claim discrimination.

The company had argued that Mr Smith was an independent contractor. If that argument had been accepted, then he would not have had any employment rights. However, the Court has found that Mr Smith was required to perform the services personally for customers. Therefore, he could not be said to be truly independent. In addition, Pimlico Plumbers was not Mr Smith’s own client or customer. Instead, they had a significant degree of control over Mr Smith’s activities.

The question of whether a person is truly independent, or whether they are a worker or an employee with full employment protection, is a very live issue at the moment. There are a number of cases going through the courts where this issue is being looked at. For example, a widely reported case involving Uber drivers has also found that they are workers entitled to certain employment protection. That case will be heard at the Court of Appeal shortly.

Perhaps more significantly, the government is also looking closely at this issue. Consultation has recently taken place on whether there needs to be a change in the law, so it is clear to individuals whether they are to be classed as independent contractors or workers with employment rights. This is particularly relevant for people who work in jobs which are precarious or uncertain, for example under zero hours contracts were no work is guaranteed. It is important for those people, and the people who they work for, to know their status and whether they are entitled to certain rights, like annual leave and sick pay.

This is not the last we will hear of this issue. Look out for more decisions in the courts and the result of the government consultation.


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