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Landmark Ruling for ‘Gig’ Workers

Landmark Ruling for ‘Gig’ Workers


Exciting developments in employment law! The recent Court of Appeal decision in Smith v Pimlico Plumbers opens up new possibilities for ‘gig’ workers to claim unpaid leave compensation, says Abigail Holt from Garden Court Mediation. This landmark ruling allows workers to seek redress for withheld pay during their annual leave. As employment disputes continue to evolve, mediation emerges as a proactive and efficient alternative to resolve disagreements, ensuring faster resolutions and cost savings.

A new area of potential employment dispute litigation has opened up following the recent Court of Appeal decision of Smith v Pimlico Plumbers [2022] EWCA Civ 70 which analyses whether and in what circumstances “workers” are entitled to paid leave.

Employers and employees have long moulded the duties, responsibilities and obligations of occupational relationships to suit them best, but under the influence of ideas of equality and rights for individuals, the law has attempted to police the boundaries of the employment relationships so that neither side of the worker/payer-of-wages association is exploited. Issues relating to who is entitled to take paid holidays has been a thorny issue on the frontier of who- is-genuinely-a-worker-with-rights-to-paid-holidays, and who is essentially self-employed, in the Wild West of flexible working arrangements. Ken Loach’s film “Sorry We Missed You” graphically illustrates some of the challenges of the so-loosely-called “gig economy” from the perspective of a delivery driver trying to juggle his work and family relationships whilst his wife is similarly engaged as a domiciliary carer and failing to meet the needs of her teenage children.

Smith is likely to open the door to a batch of new potential claims for a large group of individuals who might be loosely referred to as “gig” workers and who are likely to claim that, like Mr Smith, they have been deprived of pay during annual leave, perhaps because they have been wrongly characterised and treated as “self-employed independent contractors” or otherwise unlawfully treated as ineligible for paid leave.

The result of Mr Smith’s case means that he can recover compensation for all the unpaid leave that he took during his employment. This decision is over and above a line of legal authorities and European jurisprudence in previous court decisions that have confirmed that certain types of employment arrangement have created the status of “worker”, even for “gig”-type workers who can now claim monetary compensation for leave that they failed to take because they did not think that they were entitled to it at the time.

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