Employers cannot hide behind the label of independent contractor; the Tribunal will look at the actual relationship between the Claimant and the company to determine their true employment status.

The Supreme Court has held that a plumber who exclusively worked for Pimlico Plumbers Limited for six years was a worker.  Mr Smith was hired as an independent contractor but signed a contract with Pimlico that he had to work for them for a minimum of 40 hours per week, drive a Pimlico branded van as well as wear their uniform.   While Mr Smith could swap assignments, he could only do so with other Pimlico contractors. Mr Smith brought claims against Pimlico for holiday pay, unlawful deduction of wages and disability discrimination when he was terminated in 2011.  To pursue these claims, he had to prove that he was a worker i.e, contracted to provide personal services, and not self-employed and carrying out his business on his own account, as Pimlico contended.

The Supreme Court concluded that Mr Smith was not only a worker because he had an obligation to perform his services personally, but that he worked under an umbrella contract, which placed him under a continuing obligation to make himself available for work.  This militated against Pimlico’s assertions that they were just a customer of Mr Smith’s, and the lower instance courts’ findings that Mr Smith was a worker were more than reasonable in the circumstances.

Pimlico Plumbers Ltd and anor v Smith [2018] UKSC 29

Written by Anita Vadgama