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Press Release

Supreme Court failure to drag employment law into 21st century will lead to a ‘tsunami of claims’

Wednesday 13th June 2018

Charlie Mullins, CEO and founder of Pimlico Plumbers has warned that UK companies using self-employed contractors face a ‘tsunami of claims’ after his company lost an appeal at the Supreme Court.

Pimlico Plumbers took its appeal to the highest court in the country after it lost a claim by self-employed plumber Gary Smith who, despite being paid more than £500,000 over three years by Pimlico Plumbers, sued for employment rights, even though he signed a contract as a self-employed contractor.

The five Supreme Court judges, who heard the appeal in February, found in favour of Mr Smith, which will impact employers across the country.

Charlie said: “For those who think this is a victory for poorly paid workers everywhere, against large corporations who exploit their lack of bargaining power, think again.

“In fact, this was exploitation, but instead by a highly-paid, highly-skilled man who used a loophole in current employment law to set himself up for a double pay-day.

“The shame of all this is that it is generally accepted that current employment law is not fit for purpose, and needs to be changed.  But when it's put to the test in our highest court there isn't even the slightest suggestion that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. 

“This was a poor decision that will potentially leave thousands of companies, employing millions of contractors, wondering if one day soon they will get nasty surprise from a former contractor demanding more money, despite having been paid in full years ago.  It can only lead to a tsunami of claims.”  

Charlie also criticised the approach to the case taken by the Supreme Court judges who failed to use the appeal as an opportunity to recognise that UK employment law is outdated and needs changing to bring it into line with modern working practices.

He said: “I'm supposed to say I'm disappointed with the outcome of the appeal. In reality I am disgusted by the approach taken to this case by the highest court in the United Kingdom. 

“The five judges had the opportunity to drag our outdated employment law into the 21st Century, but instead they bottled the decision, and as a result thousands of companies across the UK, who use contractors in an honest and responsible way, remain exposed to huge potential claims in the future.”



For further information contact Karl Plunkett on 07956 555 555, or Lauren Cope on 020 7793 2220

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Editor’s Notes: Case Background

Gary Smith contracted his services as a plumber and heating engineer to Pimlico Plumbers until 2011, when, after a change of circumstances, he decided that he wanted to be treated as an employee under employment law, making him entitled to all employment rights owed to such a status.
Mr Smith’s true employment status has been under question for more than six years, and having lost his claim for ‘employee’ status in the original Employment Tribunal hearing, he was classed as a ‘worker’, which entitled him to limited employment rights.
The ‘worker’ status has to date been appealed by Pimlico Plumbers in the Employment Appeals Tribunal, The Court of Appeal, and The UK Supreme Court.

Pimlico Plumbers

Launched by Charlie Mullins in 1979 with just a bag of tools and a very old van bought at auction, Pimlico Plumbers now has 265 professional trades people and a support team of around 140 staff serving customers across London including some of the world’s most famous names including James Bond star Daniel Craig and actress Dame Helen Mirren. 

The company, which has a turnover in excess of £40 million, serves central and greater London and currently has more than 250 vans, trucks and motorbikes on the streets of the Capital.