Solve the self employed status

Pimlico Plumbers has lost a court battle over the status of its workers, in the latest legal ruling on employment status in the gig economy.

It came as the government released a report warning that “unscrupulous” employers were in a position to exploit low-paid and low-skilled workers.

Plumber Gary Smith, who worked for Pimlico Plumbers for six years until 2011, had already won an employment tribunal challenging the firm’s view that he was self-employed.

The court of appeal rejected an appeal lodged by Pimlico Plumbers, founded by the Conservative party donor Charlie Mullins.

The firm argued Smith was an “independent contractor” rather than a worker or employee.

Smith’s solicitor, Jacqueline McGuigan, said the ruling held wider implications for gig economy firms such as Deliveroo or Uber, both of which are embroiled in rows over employment status.

“We are absolutely delighted,” McGuigan said. “The decision brings welcome clarity to the issue of employment status relating to work in parts of the economy.”

Speaking outside court, Mullins said: “I am happy. This gives some clarity. We will be looking at the full judgment and there is a good chance we will appeal to the supreme court.”

 

We have the laws for a fairer gig economy, we just need to enforce them

The UK’s department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: “We are determined to make sure our employment rules keep up to date to reflect new ways of working, and that’s why the government asked Matthew Taylor to conduct an independent review into modern working practices.”

But BEIS immediately came under fire from the Green party for failing to publish a report that warned in December 2015 that gig economy workers were at risk of exploitation.

A string of labour disputes have since arisen as staff from firms such as Uber, Deliveroo and CitySprint have fought to have their status upgraded to that of workers or employees.

The report, commissioned by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, warned that a lack of clarity over workers’ status was allowing “unscrupulous” employers to take advantage of workers.

It explored possibilities including “flipping” the burden of proof in labour disputes, so that employment tribunals would consider complainants to be full employees unless a different relationship could be established.

“Some of the more unscrupulous employers will also have to start to take notice if a significant proportion of their workforce stand up for what is rightfully theirs as a result,” it said.

The Green party said the government’s failure to publish the report since it was completed in December 2015 had increased uncertainty for gig economy workers and forced them to take the risk of going to tribunal.