Employment Status of Pimlico Plumbers

15 February 2017


The Court of Appeal has handed down its judgment in Pimlico Plumbers & Charlie Mullins v Gary Smith.


Dismissing the appeal by Pimlico Plumbers from the EAT decision, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision that the plumbers employed by Pimlico plumbers are workers, not self-employed contractors. As the Master of the Rolls says:

"This case puts a spotlight on a business model under which operatives are intended to appear to clients of the business as working for the business, but at the same time the business itself seeks to maintain that... there is a legal relationship of... independent contractor rather than employer and employee or worker."

It is a fact sensitive case, and the 33 page judgment considers - in detail - the evidence and contractual documentation that Mr Smith worked under when at Pimlico Plumbers. Indeed, Underhill LJ comments that he has "not found the case entirely straightforward". But it is nevertheless likely to be a leading case on employment status in future years.

Importantly, the Court of Appeal gives a clear summary of the principles for the 'personal service' aspect of the employment status tests at paragraph 84.

As a postscript, the Court of Appeal was critical of the approach of written-only submissions in complex cases (paras 119 and 147) and emphasised the importance of oral submissions.


With thanks to Daniel Barnett’s employment law bulletin for providing this update.