Supreme Court decision on employment status

Guest article kindly supplied by KLC Employment Law.

The Supreme Court has today handed down its judgment in the case of Pimlico Plumbers Limited v Smith.

The case concerned whether or not Mr Smith was a worker, rather than (as asserted by Pimlico Plumbers) an independent contractor.  The decision was unsurprising, setting out that the ET was entitled to conclude that Mr Smith was a ‘worker’ within the meaning of s230(3)(b) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, and by analogy within the relevant provisions of the Working Time Regulations 1998 and the Equality Act 2010.

The judgment set out that it was helpful to assess the significance of Mr Smith’s ‘right to substitute’ by considering whether the dominant feature of the contract remained personal performance on his part.  In this case the terms of the contract are clearly directed to performance by Mr Smith personally, and any right to substitute was significantly limited by the fact that the substitute had to be another ‘Pimlico Plumber’. Consequently, the tribunal was entitled to hold that the dominant feature of Mr Smith’s contract with the company was an obligation of personal performance.

Having now been found to be a worker, Mr Smith’s substantive complaints of unlawful deductions from wages, that he had not been paid for a period of statutory annual leave, and disability discrimination can proceed to be heard, almost seven years later!