Editor's Blog

Fight for your right

To the Supreme Court, where a legal battle has just ended that could have huge ramifications for the industry.

The court ruled that plumber Gary Smith was entitled to workers‘ rights, such as holiday and sick pay from his employer Pimlico Plumbers – despite being self-employed. Smith worked solely for Pimlico Plumbers for six years, while being VAT-registered and paying self-employed tax.

But in a ruling that will spike the interest of freelancers throughout our industry, an employment tribunal was "entitled to conclude“ that Smith was a worker. The ruling means that Smith’s claim of unfair dismissal against Pimlico Plumbers can now be examined by a tribunal.

Pimlico Plumbers CEO Charlie Mullins (pictured) said he was "disgusted", calling it "a poor decision that will potentially leave thousands of companies, employing millions of contractors, wondering if one day soon they will get nasty surprise from a former contractor demanding more money, despite having been paid in full years ago."

However, Matthew Taylor, author of a review last year into the gig economy, said the decision was "generally a good thing, especially if it leads to more people who are employees in all-but-name securing proper workplace rights."

And this is the nub of the matter: how many freelancers out there are employees in all-but-name of agencies in our industry? And if you recognise yourself in this situation, does this ruling leave you emboldened to fight for your rights as an employee of that agency?

Obviously every firm has a different way of operating and this ruling was just on one company. But now the precedent has been set, can we expect to see event agencies and their freelancers having their day in court?

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  • Mark Dodds 21/06/2018 Of: Roythornes Solicitors

    The case highlights the challenges employers face when using 'casual' labour and how the relationship has changed between those supplying services and those paying for them.
    In this case of course the plumber was 'declared' to be a worker and not an 'employee'and so entitled to some rights, but not all. No doubt the law will catch up at some stage but until then it's a case of 'buyer beware'.