Between 2005 and 2011 Mr Smith, a plumbing engineer, carried out work for Pimlico Plumbers Ltd (Pimlico), a large plumbing business in London. His services were terminated when he was unable to work the minimum hours required due to a back problem.

Mr Smith started tribunal proceedings against Pimlico claiming he’d been unfairly dismissed as an employee, and that as a worker he had unlawful deductions made from payments due to him and had not been afforded proper holiday entitlement. He also claimed he was an employee for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 under which he brought a claim for disability discrimination. Save in relation to unfair dismissal, Mr Smith had been successful in his claims in the Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal. The company then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court examined Mr Smith’s various contracts and working arrangements with Pimlico. The documents issued to Mr Smith stated that he was an independent contractor. However, they contained various phrases more akin to an employment or worker arrangement than that of an independent contractor. These included reference to what might be regarded as disciplinary matters, how he should present himself, required him to follow various company procedures, make himself available for work for a specific number of hours and placed restrictions on who he could contact for a period after he left. Further, Mr Smith’s rights to provide a substitute were limited to informal arrangements depending on what Pimlico allowed between plumbers on their books. He wasn’t free to substitute anyone he wished.

The Supreme Court therefore decided that Mr Smith was a worker and, for the purposes of bringing a discrimination claim, he also fell into the category of being an employee with all the additional employment rights that came with such a status.

If you would like:

  • An audit
  • Updated documentation
  • Tribunal defence

Or any further information about atypical working, employment law/HR issues, please don’t hesitate to contact Joan Pettingill, or a member of our experienced Employment team.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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