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Many self-employed bodies have been urging the government for a long time now, to define exactly what makes a person self-employed.

The IPSE has spoken out, saying that the government should write into statute a positive definition of self-employment to avoid the type of uncertainty over who is and who isn’t a contractor which led to the Pimlico Plumbers case.

This recent claim was brought about by Gary Smith who worked for Pimilco Plumbers for six years until 2011 when he suffered a heart attack.

Pimlico Plumbers argued that Mr Smith was self-employed (and therefore not entitled to any employment rights or protections), but they lost every stage of the legal dispute, confirming that Smith was not a self-employed contractor.

IPSE’s Director of Policy Simon McVicker commented, “IPSE understands the Supreme Court’s decision, and welcomes the certainty it provides for Mr Smith over his employment status.

“IPSE supports genuine self-employment because of the clear benefits it brings to our economy.

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“We do not think businesses should be able to use the uncertainty about the legal definition of self-employment to declare that their workforce should all be contractors.

“The best way to address this legal uncertainty is to write into a law a positive definition of what constitutes self-employment. This would send a clear signal about who is and who isn’t self-employed, and would mean that people wouldn’t have to go all the way to the Supreme Court to get a resolution.”

McVicker added, “IPSE has developed its own matrix to help determine employment status and to explain what genuine self-employment looks like. When we ran Mr Smith’s circumstances through it, it confirmed that he should not have been self-employed.

“Disappointingly, the government doesn’t appear to support the idea of writing a positive definition into law, but this case demonstrates just how useful a positive definition would be.

“We should also be careful not to conflate the circumstances of this case with all instances of self-employment. In fact, the reality is that the vast majority of self-employed engagements are what they claim to be: genuine business-to-business engagements which are mutually beneficial to both parties.”

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