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14 February 2017

UK: important ruling for self-employed workers' rights

A British plumber who wanted to reduce his working days has won a legal battle against the London's largest independent plumbing company. On 10 February, the Court of Appeal in London agreed that Gary Smith, a self-employed worker with Pimlico Plumbers, was entitled to holiday and sick pay and other benefits even though the court judged he was technically self-employed.

The ruling will now be closely read by others with similar disputes, many of whom work for businesses in the gig economy such as Uber drivers and Deliveroo riders.

Plumber Gary Smith wanted to reduce his working days at Pimlico Plumbers following a heart attack. The firm refused, arguing that he was an “independent contractor”, rather than a worker or an employee. Pimlico Plumbers took away his branded van, which he had hired. He was VAT-registered, and paying tax on a self-employed basis, but worked solely for Pimlico Plumbers for six years.

The case is about the distinction between Mr Smith's status as either a self-employed contractor or a worker for the company. He argued that he was entitled to basic workers' rights - which would include the national minimum wage and paid holiday.

A previous employment tribunal found that the plumbers were workers - but not employees. The Court of Appeal has agreed with that decision, dismissing Pimlico Plumbers' appeal.

This is the highest court to consider such a case. The decision could have an important impact at a time when self-employment is estimated to account for 45 per cent of UK jobs created since the 2007-08 financial crisis.

Sources: BBC, The Guardian, the Financial Times

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