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Are we on the cusp of a ‘tsunami of claims’?

Charlie Mullins, CEO of Pimlico Plumbers, has suggested that UK business is set for an onslaught of claims from self-employed contractors on the hunt for improved rights and pay following the latest defeat for his company in the Supreme Court.   

The relevant case concerns one of Pimlico’s former plumbers, Gary Smith, who had received more than £500,000 over three years from Pimlico. Mr Smith later claimed that he had been engaged as a worker of the business.  In a ruling delivered yesterday, 13 June 2018, the Supreme Court agreed with the employment tribunal and found that Mr Smith was, indeed, a worker who was entitled to various statutory rights under the Working Time Regulations and the Equality Act 2010, notwithstanding that he had signed a contract as a self-employed contractor.  

This decision marks the end of the road in this long-running saga and it is anticipated by some that it will open the floodgates to significant numbers of copycat claims.  Most disappointing of all is that the Supreme Court elected not to issue further guidance in what is a notoriously complex area, seemingly content to wait until the results of the consultation process which the Government has committed to commence on employment status as part of its response to the Taylor Review (as highlighted in our recent news report https://torquelaw.co.uk/response-to-taylor-review/)

What this latest decision does do is serve as further reminder, if one were needed, that courts and tribunals will look beyond the contractual and other written arrangements which organisations put in place with individuals and are far more interested in the working arrangements in practice.  As the well-known expression goes: “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck”.    

If you engage self-employed contractors and any further advice in relation to how this decision may impact your business please contact Tiggy or Emma.

 

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