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26 October 2018 | Comment | Article by Louise Price

Pimlico Plumbers loses appeal against worker status

Employment status continues to be a widely debated topic and the Supreme Court has now upheld a decision of an earlier employment tribunal that Mr Smith was in fact a worker, rather than a self-employed plumber, of Pimlico Plumbers.

Despite the fact that Mr Smith had worked for Pimlico Plumbers for many years under a contract which defined him as an “independent contractor” (and furthermore that Mr Smith believed himself to be an independent contractor), the court has determined that there were sufficient factors to establish a worker relationship with Pimlico Plumbers.

Even though Mr Smith’s contract provided that he could appoint a substitute, the court found that in reality the contract anticipated that it was Mr Smith who would personally need to carry out the work. Furthermore, although Mr Smith bore some financial risk under the contract, he was also subject to significant control by Pimlico Plumbers.. Mr Smith was required to wear a Pimlico Plumbers uniform, he carried an ID card and drove a branded van. He also had restrictive covenants in his contract. All of these factors pointed away from him being an independent contractor and towards his status as a worker.

This case is not a ground breaking ruling but it does serve as a caution to employers that the contractual documentation in place with a self employed individual is only part of the story when determining the employment status of that individual. The courts will not hesitate to look beyond the contractual documentation to see whether in reality the relationship is one of worker or employee. If an individual can establish their status as a worker or employee, this gives them access to enhanced rights and protections under the law which are not available to those genuinely self employed persons.

For more information, please contact a member of our employment team.

Author bio

Louise Price


A highly specialised lawyer, Louise is a Partner and Head of Employment and HR services. Her expertise includes corporate support work, TUPE, pensions and employee benefits advice. She regularly advises private, public and third sector clients regarding large scale TUPE transfers of staff including drafting indemnities and warranties, advising on potential employment and pension liabilities, information and consultation obligations, and providing best value guidance.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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