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March 1, 2017

Gig Economy Rights

One of our Directors Matt Sutton talks 'Gig Economy Rights'...

The ruling in the high-profile Gary Smith v Pimlico case is a step the right way when it comes to the future of employment rights in the so-called “gig-economy”.

The case, which saw Smith take on his employers for unfair dismissal, is the latest employment tribunal hearing being brought by self-employed workers. They are attempting to establish basic employment rights.

Based in London, Smith had been working for plumbing company Pimlico for six years before suffering a heart attack; he was then dismissed. He then brought a claim against the company for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination and also sought sick and holiday pay.

The tribunal found that whilst the contract between Smith and Pimlico was drafted so as to treat the worker as self-employed for the purposes of tax and VAT, he was a worker for the purposes of the ERA because he was obliged to wear a uniform and work a minimum of 40 hrs/week.

The hearing follows a recent rise in the so called ‘gig economy’. This has seen more and more workers opting for self-employed status, working on a contract or project-by-project basis. Whilst this rise may reflect a new trend towards a more agile and flexible workforce, this could see employees forfeit employment rights including sick and holiday pay.

The ruling in favour of Smith is a positive step for self-employed workers seeking to protect their employment rights. In future it will ensure that contracts of this kind are drafted to reflect the true nature of the relationship between the worker and company.

It should be noted, however, that this particular case was decided solely on its own facts and will not be a blanket decision from which further tribunal hearings seek precedent.

But it is certainly a step in the right direction. It highlights the courts willingness to look at the actual working relationship between the employee and the employer, rather than what has been agreed on paper and can often be very different from the facts.

The coming months are set to see many similar hearings against big name employers and we welcome further clarity on this currently murky area of law.

Our employment team are more than happy to assist in any employment matters. Find out more here.

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