Pimlico Plumbers v Gary Smith.

The Supreme Court has today issued its decision following the February hearing in Pimlico Plumbers v Gary Smith. As in previous rounds, (starting in 2011) Mr Smith has come out victorious, with the Supreme Court confirming the Employment Tribunal was correct in classifying him as a worker –  someone who personally provided services to Pimlico, without the relationship of client or customer. A worker is that hybrid being somewhere between an employee, who works under a contract of employment, and a self-employed contractor, who has a contract to provide services. A worker does however have rights, including the right to receive the national minimum wage and paid holidays.


Engaged for 13 years by Pimlico Plumbers under a  written contract as a self-employed plumber, Gary Smith was registered for VAT, took care of his own tax affairs, drove a Pimlico Plumbers’ branded van and wore their uniform; he was also subject to their administrative and pay regime and post termination restrictive covenants. The Court looked at the facts of his relationship with Pimlico and determined the dominant feature was that he was to personally provide services to Pimlico. That, taken with Pimlico’s management of pay and uniform led the court to uphold the Tribunal’s decision that Mr Smith was a worker.


The Court’s decision again demonstrates that there is no simple test to determine the status of worker/employee/self-employed but rather the consideration of a myriad of factors including the obligation to do or provide work; the right of substitution; control; the provision of tools; integration into the workforce and assumption of risk amongst others.  Having the status of worker, rather than a self-employed contractor, brings both rights and obligations.  The worker has the right to receive, and the “employer” to pay, national minimum wage, annual leave, rest breaks, pension auto enrolment and also protection against discrimination.  These can be expensive obligations for a company and care should be taken when engaging an individual.

While great care has been taken in the preparation of the content of this article, it does not purport to be a comprehensive statement of the relevant law and full professional advice should be taken before any action is taken in reliance on any item covered.