Wilkin Chapman: ‘Caution needs to be taken on the use of self-employed contractors’

Following the news today that Pimlico Plumbers’ founder Charlie Mullins has lost a landmark Supreme Court workers’ right case, Wilkin Chapman is reminding businesses that caution needs to be taken regarding the use of self-employed contractors.

Charlie Mullins today lost the Supreme Court case to Gary Smith, who has worked for his business for almost six years until he had a heart attack.

Judges ruled that Smith should have been treated as an employee and given paid holiday and sick pay as well as other perks, despite being classified as self-employed.

The court found that despite being self-employed, Smith was still a staff worker for Mullins, as he was required to use the firm’s van for assignments and was contractually obliged to do a minimum number of hours per week for the firm.

Now, Lincoln-based solicitors Wilkin Chapman are reminding businesses that caution needs to be taken regarding the use of self-employed contractors.

Oliver Tasker​, Senior Solicitor at Wilkin Chapman said: “This decision reaffirms that, in this case, the individual was a worker rather than an independent self-employed contractor as suggested by the employer and therefore should have received the associated rights including holiday pay, rest breaks, the right to receive the national minimum or living wage and the right not to be discriminated against.

“We have already seen a number of similar rulings, for example Uber, and it is likely we will see an increase in individuals challenging their employment status given the significant coverage this topic has seen.

“I would therefore urge businesses to review their working practices, including all contracts and documentation, regarding the use of consultants or the self-employed in order to mitigate risks of a challenge.

“The gig economy has grown substantially in recent years which reflects that both businesses and individuals like flexibility to their working arrangements, however employment law does not necessarily cater for this new way of working in terms of employment status.

“With the government’s agenda currently focussing on Brexit it is unlikely that we will see a meaningful update or clear guidance on employment status to reflect modern practices for some time which creates uncertainty for businesses operating in the gig economy.”