Supreme Court ruling could have ramifications for self-employed drivers

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A plumber was won a legal battle in the Supreme Court, which ruled that he was in fact a worker despite being classed as self-employed. A similar outcome could be expected in the case of self-employed drivers who wear a uniform, drive a branded vehicle and only work for a single company.

Gary Smith had issued proceedings against Pimlico Plumbers after alleging he had been unfairly dismissed, with an unlawful deduction made from his wages and had not been paid for a period of statutory annual leave.

He also said he had been discriminated against by virtue of his disability, after he had attempted to have his working week reduced following a heart attack.

The employment tribunal ruled that Gary could be classed as ‘in employment’ for the purposes of the Equalities Act 2010, allowing him to proceed with the latter three of his claims.

This decision was appealed by Pimlico Plumbers, an appeal which eventually reached the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court dismissed Pimlico Plumbers’ appeal, finding that the terms of the contract it had with Gary Smith – which included control over attire, terms of when and how the company was obliged to pay and a ‘suite of covenants’ restricting working activities following termination – meant the business was neither a client nor a customer of Gary Smith. He was therefore entitled to the rights of a worker.

Pimlico Plumbers CEO, Charlie Mullins, said: “I am disgusted by the approach taken to this case by the highest court in the United Kingdom.

“The five judges had the opportunity to drag our outdated employment law into the 21st Century, but instead they bottled the decision, and as a result thousands of companies across the UK, who use contractors in an honest and responsible way, remain exposed to huge potential claims in the future.”

Rebecca Hilsenrath, CEO of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, commented: “If you wear the uniform, if you drive the branded vehicle, if you only work for one business, you are employed.

“That means you are entitled to the appropriate protections and adjustments which go with the job, to enable you to work safely and productively.

“Everyone has the right to a healthy working environment, and to that end businesses need to recognise their duties to their workers.”