The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by Pimlico Plumbers in a decision that should have wide implications for workers’ rights.

During his time at Pimlico Plumbers, Gary Smith paid tax on a self-employed basis though he worked solely for the company.  He was required to work a minimum number of weekly hours, wear the company uniform and rent a branded van.  He could however choose when he worked and which jobs he took, he was also required to provide his own tools and equipment.

Smith suffered a heart attack in 2010 and wanted to work three days a week rather than five.  Pimlico refused his request and took away the van.

An employment tribunal ruled that Smith was a worker, but not an employee. Pimlico appealed that decision but both the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal backed the tribunal’s finding.

Lord Wilson gave the lead judgment yesterday in Pimlico Plumbers Ltd and another v Smith.  He upheld judgments from the employment tribunal and the Court of Appeal.  The decision clarified that plumber Gary Smith’s work for the company met the definition of ‘employment’ under section 83(2)(a) of the Equality Act.

Lord Wilson said Smith should be considered as a ‘limb (b) worker’ and therefore entitled to certain rights.

The decision by the Supreme Court paves the way for Smith to take action against Pimlico Plumbers as a worker, including a claim that he was unfairly dismissed.