Pimlico Plumbers case heads to the Supreme Court, with potentially major implications for Uber, Deliveroo and the gig economy

“Material errors” in previous rulings on whether a plumber working for Pimlico Plumbers should have ‘worker’ rather than ‘self-employed’ status mean that the case is now to be heard in the Supreme Court, with the outcome set to have far-reaching implications for the gig economy.

The case concerns whether plumber Gary Smith was an independent contractor or a worker and therefore entitled to certain rights while working for Pimlico Plumbers. The Law Gazette reports that Smith was allegedly required to work a minimum number of weekly hours, but after suffering a heart attack in 2010, Pimlico refused to let him lower his hours and took away the branded van he was required to rent. Smith sought worker status, which would entitle him to sick and holiday pay, and was granted this in consecutive rulings by an employment tribunal and the Court of Appeal.

However, lawyers for Pimlico Plumbers have argued that there are irregularities in the previous judgments, specifically that Smith’s claim that he was required to work a 40-hour week is “materially wrong” and that there is evidence that points to Smith being an independent contractor.

The Supreme Court is now hearing the case, which is being closely watched by employment lawyers and players in the gig economy. Depending on the outcome, the case could boost the arguments of gig economy operators such as Uber and Deliveroo, which are desperate for their drivers not to be granted the rights afforded by worker status.

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