Gig economy: worker loses Pimlico Plumbers holiday pay claim

A heating engineer who won a claim against Pimlico Plumbers at the supreme court, establishing he was a worker and not self-employed, has lost his bid to claim £74,000 in holiday pay as a result.

An employment tribunal in Croydon ruled on Wednesday that Gary Smith, from Kent, who worked at the firm for six years until 2011, had not filed his holiday pay claim quickly enough.

In a statement issued by his lawyer, Jacqueline McGuigan of TMP Solicitors, Smith said he was “extremely disappointed at the outcome after spending seven years going through the courts defending his legal right to be recognised as a worker”. He is to appeal the decision.

The failure of the holiday pay claim is a blow for gig economy workers after a lengthy case, partly funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which was regarded as setting a significant precedent for a series of protracted legal battles over employment status, such as those involving the cab firms Uber and Addison Lee.

Many delivery drivers and couriers are classed by the companies they work for as self-employed independent contractors without rights to the legal minimum wage or holiday pay.

But employment rights groups say they should be classed as workers, entitling them to those basic rights, but not enjoy the full range of protections given to full-time staff.

McGuigan said the tribunal’s ruling was made under regulations that stipulated Smith should have made his claim for missed pay within three months of each holiday period dating back to 2005.

She added: “That’s under working time regulations that were drafted for people who know they have got those rights. When you are a gig worker who believes you are self-employed but are mistaken, there is a problem.”

Charlie Mullins, the chief executive of Pimlico Plumbers, said: “While the supreme court deemed him to be a ‘worker’ and entitled to associated rights, the tables have been turned and common sense prevailed in the actual employment tribunal and Mr Smith has been told that he wasn’t entitled to a penny.”

He said the ruling “sends a message to those who have taken advantage of this case to peddle their poisonous bile about my company”.

The company said it was considering reclaiming its tribunal costs from Smith.