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Blow to Pimlico Plumbers in landmark gig economy case

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Plumber wins legal battle

In a ruling which could set a clear precedent for other gig economy disputes, plumber Gary Smith has won a legal battle against his employer — Pimlico Plumbers — over whether he was entitled to working rights.

Smith, from Kent, had worked solely for Pimlico Plumbers for six years. He suffered a heart attack in 2010 and sought to work three days a week, instead of five as he had done previously. Pimlico Plumbers, however, refused Smith’s request and took away his van, which he had hired from the company.

Smith claimed he was dismissed, but the firm disputed this assertion.

Charlie Mullins, CEO and founder of Pimlico Plumbers today stated: “For those who think this is a victory for poorly paid workers everywhere, against large corporations who exploit their lack of bargaining power, think again. In fact, this was exploitation, but instead by a highly-paid, highly-skilled man who used a loophole in current employment law to set himself up for a double pay-day.

“The shame of all this is that it is generally accepted that current employment law is not fit for purpose, and needs to be changed.  But when it’s put to the test in our highest court there isn’t even the slightest suggestion that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. 

“This was a poor decision that will potentially leave thousands of companies, employing millions of contractors, wondering if one day soon they will get nasty surprise from a former contractor demanding more money, despite having been paid in full years ago.  It can only lead to a tsunami of claims.”  

Mishcon de Reya employment partner Susannah Kintish, who has been leading the case for Pimlico Plumbers against Smith since it began in 2011, added: “…The Supreme Court Justices have made it clear that this judgment is very specific to the unique facts of the case. It will therefore do little to stem the flow of litigation around worker status which, in the absence of any overarching principles, will need to be determined on the specific circumstances of each case.”




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