A whistlestop guide to the law of the modern gig economy

People Management’s timeline tracks some of the most important cases to date

To say there’s been a recent flurry of gig economy cases would be an understatement, and it’s becoming tricky to keep up with who said what and when. To help out busy HR professionals, People Management has prepared a timeline of the most important modern gig economy rulings to date:

June 2018 – The Supreme Court rules that Gary Smith, an engineer who worked for Pimlico Plumbers for six years before suffering a heart attack, is a worker, upholding the Court of Appeal, Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) and tribunal decisions. Lord Wilson’s judgment, with which the other justices unanimously agree, hinges on the control the company had over the way Smith carried out his work and the fact that, although the engineer could nominate someone else to take on a job on his behalf, that person also needed to be contracted with Pimlico. 

May 2018 – The EAT finds that Addison Lee cycle courier Christopher Gascoigne is a worker as opposed to being self-employed. This decision upholds August 2017’s tribunal finding. 

November 2017 – The Central Arbitration Committee decides that Deliveroo cyclists are self-employed as they can nominate another rider to take on a job. The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain has since taken the case to the High Court. 

November 2017 – The EAT rules that two Uber drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, are workers, not self-employed, agreeing with an earlier tribunal judgment. The judge dismisses Uber’s argument that it is a technology platform bringing together lots of smaller businesses as “faintly ridiculous”. Uber has appealed the decision and the case is scheduled to be heard by the Court of Appeal in October 2018. 

September 2017 – An employment tribunal rules that three Addison Lee minicab drivers – Michaell Lange, Mark Morahan and Mieczyslaw Olszewski – are workers rather than self-employed. Judge David Pearl’s decision weighs partly on the drivers being required to personally undertake jobs when they logged into the company’s booking system. 

August 2017 – An employment tribunal finds that Addison Lee’s Christopher Gascoigne is a worker rather than an independent contractor and is therefore entitled to rights such as the minimum wage and holiday pay. 

March 2017 – A tribunal decides that Andrew Boxer, a cycle courier for Excel (now part of CitySprint), has been wrongly classified as an independent contractor and is a worker. 

February 2017 – The Court of Appeal finds that Pimlico Plumbers’ Gary Smith is a worker as opposed to being self-employed. This ruling upholds previous EAT and tribunal decisions. 

January 2017 – A tribunal decides that Maggie Dewhurst, a CitySprint cycle courier, has been wrongly classified as a self-employed freelancer and is in fact a worker. Judge Joanna Wade is particularly critical of Dewhurst’s contract with the company, describing it as  “contorted”, “indecipherable” and “window dressing”.

October 2016 – A tribunal rules that Uber driver James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam should be treated as workers and are therefore entitled to holiday pay, sick pay and minimum wage.

November 2014 – The EAT finds that Pimlico Plumbers’ Gary Smith is a worker, upholding an earlier tribunal decision. However, the EAT also rejects Smith’s cross-appeal, agreeing with the tribunal that he is not an employee. 

April 2012 – A tribunal rules that Pimlico Plumbers’ Gary Smith is a worker and not self-employed. However, the tribunal also decides that Smith is not an employee, meaning it has no power to hear his claims of unfair and wrongful dismissal. 

July 2011 – The Supreme Court rules that car valeters working for Autoclenz are working under contracts of employment, not self-employment. The judges decide that the tribunal is entitled to disregard the wording of the contract and look at the reality of the working relationship.