Worker Status and the Gig Economy

In recent times there has been a shift in thinking from both businesses and individuals as to how working arrangements should operate. A combination of more sophisticated technology, business pressures and changing social norms mean that working arrangements are increasingly breaking free from the traditional employer-employee relationship. Cue the explosion of the "gig-economy": a labour market characterised by short-term contracts, discreet jobs or freelance work, often found via online platforms or other intermediaries.

The gig-economy - in particular the lack of clarity regarding worker status and the distinction between employees, workers and the self-employed - throws up a number of challenges and legal complexities with regards to day-to-day operations and entitlement to protections.

At Mishcon de Reya, we have unparalleled experience acting for both businesses and individuals in this field. We have acted in the two leading disputes involving worker status: representing the successful claimant in the groundbreaking Supreme Court decision on worker status in the LLP and whistleblowing context Clyde & Co LLP and another v Bates van Winkelhof and more recently on behalf of the respondent in the ongoing case of Pimlico Plumbers and Mullins v Smith on the distinction between worker and self-employed status, listed to be heard by the Supreme Court in February 2018.

The experience of our employment and tax lawyers allows us to guide clients through this complex legal and political landscape, putting in place strategies to balance the effective operation of their business with the flexibility demanded of them by a modern workforce, ensuring the correct protections and entitlements are in place.  Working closely with our reputation protection team allows us to proactively manage clients' reputations, and deal with any fallout quickly and effectively. 


  • Pimlico Plumbers v Smith: we act for Pimlico Plumbers in claims brought against it by one of its engineers.  Pimlico Plumbers considered the engineer to be self-employed whilst the engineer claimed to be an employee. We successfully defeated the claim for employment but the issue of whether or not Mr Smith is a worker will be heard by the UK Supreme Court in February 2018. This is currently the highest authority on the issue of employment status in the "gig economy". 
  • We acted in Clyde & Co LLP and another v Krista Bates van Winkelhof [2011] IRLR 467 (HC), a case which has established that an LLP cannot use an arbitration clause to prevent a member from pursuing claims in the Employment Tribunal. The Supreme Court found Krista Bates van Winkelhof was a worker for the purposes of whistleblowing legislation and as such could bring her claim in the Employment Tribunal. 
  • We provide strategic advice to a range of businesses, from start-ups to multinationals, on navigating the employment and tax issues presented by the gig economy and putting measures in place to help safeguard business whilst protecting those who work within it.

Related services

Contact us

Location, directions and other helpful resources

Contact us

Subscribe to our mailings

Keep up to date with news, publications and briefings