What is the gig economy court ruling about, and will it affect other workers?

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Plumber Gary Smith has won the latest legal battle for working rights in a Supreme Court ruling expected to impact on workers in the so-called gig economy.

What was his case about?

He worked for Pimlico Plumbers for six years, and decided to take his case to an employment tribunal, claiming he was denied rights such as sick pay because he was classed as self-employed rather than a “worker”.

How did it end up in the Supreme Court?

Pimlico Plumbers, headed by flamboyant businessman Charlie Mullins, has been fighting the case ever since it was first taken to a tribunal in 2011.

How many hearings have been held?

Appeals to the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal were dismissed, and the Supreme Court unanimously agreed on Wednesday.

Is that the end of road for the company?

Pimlico Plumbers employment case
Charlie Mullins described the decision as ‘terrible’ (Yui Mok/PA)

So he’s not happy with the Supreme Court?

No. Outside the court, he described the decision as “terrible”, and said the judges had “bottled it” rather than grasp an opportunity to update employment law.

What is the background to the case?

Mr Smith began his battle in 2010 when he wanted to reduce his working week from five days to three after a heart attack. He says the firm refused and took away his branded van, which he had hired, claiming he was dismissed.

Will the case have an impact on other workers?

Mr Smith’s legal team say it will affect other workers in gig firms, such as delivery and taxi drivers or cleaners, but other lawyers believe it is not clear how widespread any impact will be.

What is the gig economy?

The term describes how workers get paid for the “gigs” they do, such as a food delivery or a car journey, rather than having a regular wage.

Why is it so controversial?

Unions argue that workers are exploited, classed as self-employed so they don’t get basic rights such as holiday pay and can be sacked without warning.

What do employers say?

Firms insist people enjoy the flexibility of being a gig worker rather than being tied to a certain number of hours every week.

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