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Employment law case update - Worker status, independent contractors

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Employment Status & the “Gig” Economy

Over recent months, we have reported on a number of cases relating to employment status and the ‘gig’ economy. The Supreme Court has recently ruled on the Pimlico Plumbers case, a summary of which is below. We have also provided a reminder of the Addison Lee ruling below, which was reported on in our June Employment Law Bulletin

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

The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s finding that Mr Smith, a plumber, was a ‘worker’, despite his contract stating that he was an independent contractor. The Supreme Court agreed that he had undertaken to personally perform work for Pimlico Plumbers and that the company was neither his client nor his customer.

The dominant feature of Mr Smith's contract was that he should perform the work himself; he did not have an unfettered right to give away the work. Although he had the ability to swap a shift with another Pimlico plumber, this was a qualified right not set out in his written contract. Mr Smith was able to reject work and bore some financial risk, but this did not outweigh the factors pointing against Pimlico Plumbers being a client. The company controlled his uniform and his administrative duties, as well as when and how much payment he received. The relationship of subordination was a key indicator that Pimlico Plumbers was not a client of Mr Smith.

Addison Lee Ltd v Gascoigne UKEAT/0289/17/LA

The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the employment tribunal’s finding that the cycle courier concerned was a ‘worker’ and not self-employed.

Addison Lee had appealed against the employment tribunal’s decision that Mr Gascoigne was a worker when logged on to Addison Lee’s app. The appellant stated that the tribunal had made an error in finding that there was sufficient mutuality of obligation to give Mr Gascoigne a worker status.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal rejected the grounds of appeal, upholding the tribunal's finding of worker status and thus Mr Gascoigne's entitlement to holiday pay. The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that the tribunal had correctly determined that there was mutuality of obligation between the parties when Mr Gascoigne was logged on to the app. The tribunal relied on the fact that he had to accept jobs offered to him when logged on to the app, unless exceptional circumstances arose, for example a tyre puncture. Mr Gascoigne’s entitlement to log off the app at any time did not affect his obligation to accept work when logged on.

If you have any questions in relation to this article, please do not hesitate to contact the Employment team or contact Hannah Newbery on 0113 336 3311 or  at hannah.newbery@clarionsolicitors.com. You can follow the twitter account for regular case, legislation and guidance updates.

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