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Employment Status – Pimlico Plumbers v Smith

5 December 2014: Plumbing the Depths of Employment Status:

Some businesses engage staff on a ‘self employed’ basis to avoid PAYE obligations, employee rights (such as the right not to be unfairly dismissed) and worker rights (mainly the right to paid holiday)


In Pimlico Plumbers v Smith EAT reported this week, a plumber wore Pimlico Plumber’s uniform and drove a van with Pimlico’s logo, he was paid against receipt of invoices, he personally accounted for tax and was also VAT registered. Mr Smith was required to provide his own tools, equipment and materials and maintained his own insurance.


Mr Smith was required to work a minimum number of hours per week, but could choose particular working hours and could reject particular jobs. Pimlico was under no obligation to provide work if none was available.


The EAT held that Mr Smith was a ‘worker’ because he provided the service personally and there was no express provision allowing substitution. However Mr Smith was not an employee, taking into account his financial risk, his degree of autonomy in giving quotations and how he carried the work out.


Notwithstanding this decision, employers should continue to be very cautious about seeking to avoid worker and employment rights when taking on staff on a ‘self employed’ basis in a similar manner.  Such cases require a careful analysis of the system of working as well as the law.


We are employment solicitors based in Holborn, just by Chancery Lane underground advising on all aspects of employment law, including employment status, unfair dismissal and worker claims. Call us today on  0207 118 0950 or email us at Visit our website at


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