Self employed, are you sure?

Pimlico plumbers are workers and not self-employed.

The Supreme Court has unanimously held that the so-called self-employed plumbers at Pimlico plumbers are not self-employed but  are workers and are therefore able to claim holiday and sick pay amongst other rights.

The background to the case is that Mr Smith started working for Pimlico plumbers in 2005. He was required to sign a contract which stated that he was a sub contractor. He was required to provide his own equipment, pay his own tax and national insurance and have his own insurance cover. He was ly significant required to wear  a company uniform and drive one of their liveried vans.

Mr Smith became ill in 2011 and presenter a claim to the employment tribunal for holiday pay and disability discrimination as he maintained that he had worker status.

Pimlico Plumbers were unsuccessful in the Court of Appeal and appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court said that the plumbers were workers within the meaning of the Employment Rights Act 1996 on the basis that he had to provide personal service to Pimlico plumbers and that he could not substitute himself for somebody else to fulfil the work obligations that he had unless they worked for Pimlico Plumbers. The court found that there were features of the contract that showed that Pimlico Plumbers were not a client or customer of Mr Smith as they exercise light control over him by requiring him to wear the company’s branded uniform, drive the  branded van, carry identity card and follow the company administrative instructions.

The court came to the view that Pimlico Plumbers could not be regarded as a client or customer of Mr Smith and stated that Mr Smith was a worker and not self-employed.

Comments from Iain lock solicitor, managing director Q&A Law.

It is a very interesting case and one  that will no doubt will cause concern for many businesses in varying industries. The courts have identified personal service is a major factor in determining whether or not somebody is a worker or self-employed. Clearly from this decision where there is an absence of the ability to substitute the work to somebody else this may give rise to worker status. Employment contracts not only need to be carefully drafted but also the actions of the business must allow self-employed people to to substitute somebody else to conduct the work. The actions of Pimlico Plumbers in requiring Mr Smith to wear a uniform, drive a liveried vehicle and carry out administrative duties also demonstrated that he was subordinate to them and this reflected upon him being a worker and not self-employed.

Many of my client will be concerned by this decision and we will need to consider not only the wording of contract but also what actually happens day-to-day basis, and so they allow self employed people to engage someone else to do the work if they cannot.

If  this judgment effects your business and you would like a chat over the phone please email Iain Lock at

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