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Gig economy: heating engineer wins claim against Pimlico Plumbers

Employment rights of workers in the gig economy have been boosted after a heating engineer won his claim against Pimlico Plumbers at the supreme court, establishing that he was a worker and not self-employed.

The supreme court’s unanimous judgment is likely to set a significant precedent for a series of protracted legal battles, such as those involving the cab firms Uber and Addison Lee, which are in dispute with their drivers over their employment status.

Pimlico Plumbers, which lost at every stage of the dispute, had appealed to the UK’s highest court, arguing that those it sent out to repair leaking pipes and malfunctioning dishwashers were self-employed and not “workers”. Workers do not enjoy the full range of employment protection rights given to full-time staff but are entitled to many elements such as holiday pay.

The claim was brought by Gary Smith, from Kent, who worked for Pimlico Plumbers as a plumber and heating engineer for six years until 2011, when he suffered a heart attack. He claimed his subsequent request for a three-day week was rejected, the Pimlico Plumbers van he rented was taken away, and he was dismissed. The firm disputed Smith’s assertion that he was sacked because he wanted to work fewer days.