The supreme court ruling against Pimlico Plumbers is just the most recent to assert that workers have employment rights
Few aspects of the world of work have received more attention in recent times than the so-called gig economy, in which bicycle couriers, Uber drivers and others work for companies, often through an app, with no set schedule and paid on a per-job basis. However, the dominant feature of the gig economy is the fact that the companies say the people who work for them are independent businesspeople with no employment rights, when in law they are actually limb (b) workers, a category of self-employed individual entitled to basic rights such as paid holidays, minimum wage and protection from discrimination.
Public debate over the root cause of the problem can be distilled into two competing narratives. On the one hand, you have the gig economy companies, the government and Matthew Taylor, who conducted a review of modern employment practices for the government. These guys say the problem is confusion in the law, or the inability of the law to keep up with the times, which can result in workers being inadvertently deprived of rights to which they’re entitled. On the other side of the debate, you have those of us who have been submitting and repeatedly winning tribunal cases establishing the gig economy’s labourers as limb (b) workers, in particular the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), and of course the judges who are writing these decisions. We say the law is pretty clear and the companies are clearly on the wrong side of it.