Today there has been a significant court ruling over freelance working in the modern workplace. The Court of Appeal has handed down its judgment in Pimlico Plumbers & Charlie Mullins v Gary Smith.

Gary Smith, a self-employed individual wanted to reduce his working days at Pimlico Plumbers following a heart attack. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Employment Tribunal that had found that Gary Smith was entitled to basic workers’ rights despite being technically self-employed.

This is a major development in employment law as this decision is the latest favouring workers in a flexible workforce. In the developing “gig” economy and with recent high profile cases such as the Uber drivers, the ruling will inevitably attract widespread publicity and be closely considered by others with similar disputes.

This particular case was about the distinction between Gary Smith’s status as either a self-employed contractor or a worker for the company. Gary was VAT-registered, and paying tax on a self-employed basis, but worked solely for Pimlico Plumbers for six years. After Gary suffered a heart attack in 2010, he wanted to reduce his days from five to three. However, the firm refused and took away his branded van. He then claimed he was dismissed. Gary argued that he was entitled to basic workers’ rights; which would include the national minimum wage, paid holiday and the ability to bring discrimination claims.

A previous Employment Tribunal found that the plumbers were workers but not employees. The Court of Appeal has now agreed with that decision, dismissing Pimlico Plumbers’ appeal.

By being given the status as workers these self-employed individuals would be entitled to more rights than would be the case if they were deemed just simply self-employed and taking on work on totally freelance basis.

The Government has now commissioned a review into the issue of workers’ rights in the “gig” economy; addressing questions of job security, pension, holiday and parental leave rights. It is also looking at “employer freedoms and obligations”.

For employers, this demonstrates that businesses need to take account of a changing workforce. It is a reminder to review staffing structures and focus particular attention on those labelled as “freelance staff” and “self-employed” and whether or not your business has any written terms governing these relationships and if so whether they afford appropriate protection for your business.

For individuals this is a positive outcome for those that wish to have flexibility when they work whilst having the additional securities and protections such as paid holiday and protection from discrimination.

Farleys Employment Law & HR team can review and provide recommendations with regards to staffing structures, individual status, existing contractual documentation and/or advice and assistance with regards to Employment Status and the development of this in the “gig” economy.

Contact the Employment team on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry online.