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  1. ITV Report

Supreme Court decision due in landmark case over plumber’s employment status

Pimlico Plumbers chief executive Charlie Mullins outside the Supreme Court, London, in February (PA/Victoria Jones) Photo: PA Wire/PA Images

The UK’s highest court is to deliver its ruling in a landmark case it is said will have “huge ramifications” for the so-called gig economy.

Gary Smith, a plumber who worked for Pimlico Plumbers for nearly six years from 2005, has already won a number of court rulings that determined he could claim “worker” status even though he was described in his contract as a “self-employed operative”.

As a “worker”, he would be entitled to employment rights including holiday and sick pay.

Pimlico Plumbers appealed against those decisions at a Supreme Court hearing in February.

Chief executive Charlie Mullins said at the time the firm’s case was different from others involving the status of employees, including delivery and taxi drivers, but will have “huge ramifications” on employment law for a number of industries.

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Supreme Court president Lady Hale and four other justices will give their decision in London on Wednesday.

Mr Smith was one of 125 contractors Pimlico Plumbers could call on to carry out jobs for its customers and had a company uniform and van which he rented.

He claimed that, after suffering a heart attack in 2011 and trying to reduce his hours, he was unfairly dismissed and a tribunal made a preliminary finding that he was a “worker” within the meaning of the 1996 Employment Rights Act.

That decision was upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal and again by the Court of Appeal in February last year.

The Court of Appeal found Mr Smith was a worker because he was required to use the firm’s van for assignments and was contractually obliged to do a minimum number of hours a week.

Pimlico Plumbers (Clara Molden/PA) Credit: Pimlico Plumbers (Clara Molden/PA)

At the February hearing, lawyers for Pimlico Plumbers and Mr Mullins argued the previous rulings were wrong to conclude Mr Smith was a worker.

Thomas Linden QC told the five Supreme Court justices Mr Smith was a “skilled tradesman” and therefore in a strong position as a self-employed contractor able to command high earnings.

He added: “In this case the question is whether the provisions relating to employment apply to the claimant.”

Mr Smith’s legal team argued the previous decisions were correct and should be upheld.