Employment status in the “gig economy”
You may be aware of the previous decisions of the Employment Tribunal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal in Pimlico Plumbers, as well as the well-reported “gig economy” decisions in the cases of Uber, City Sprint and Deliveroo. These decisions have shown that employment judges are looking beyond an employer’s characterisation of its relationship with their workers when determining employment status.
In the widely reported case of Pimlico Plumbers Ltd and Mullins v Smith, the Supreme Court has recently upheld the decision that a plumber, whose contract purported that he was an “independent contractor”, was, in fact, engaged as a “worker” for the purposes of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Working Time Regulations 1998.
How does this impact upon schools?
Whilst these “gig-economy” arrangements are unlikely to be of direct significance to schools, the principles surrounding worker status will be of relevance in circumstances where individuals are purportedly engaged on a self-employment basis (such as may be the case with, for example, peripatetic music teachers and sports coaches).
The decision is a useful reminder that the distinction between self-employed and worker status is often finely balanced and schools should ensure that their contractual documentation with staff accurately reflects the reality of the working relationship.
We will keep you updated as matters progress in this area.