KBB Retailers risk wave of employment tribunals following Uber ruling

Uber

Kitchen, bedroom and bathroom retailers risk being hit by wave of employment tribunals following Uber ruling, warns trade institute.

Some of the biggest names in retail as well as a host of independent showrooms are at risk of falling foul of the precedent
for employment rights that has been set by the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on Uber drivers’ status, according to
The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI).


In a briefing paper (https://www.bikbbi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/BiKBBI-Briefing-Paper-
Uber-Ruling.pdf) BiKBBI, which represents thousands of tradespeople and retailers in the home improvement industry,
warns that the model of subcontracting installers to fit new kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms will now be open to
scrutiny. It calls on retailers to audit their relationships with installers and, if necessary, adapt their working practices to
avoid being vulnerable to employment tribunals.


BiKBBI’s briefing paper, which is issued to members and partners across the home improvement industry, highlights
how the Uber ruling means that the “totality of the relationship between businesses and subcontractors” will be looked
at in determining employment status, following the ruling, rather than just the specific contractual terms. It warns that
“if businesses are recognised as having an undue level of control over how the subcontractor goes about their work and
allows no room for negotiation over what they are paid, they are likely to be classified as employers and carry all of the
obligations that go along with it.”


The warning is intended as a wakeup call to home improvement retailers that rely on subcontracted installers to offer a
turnkey service to consumers. It is estimated that around 40% of skilled installers work with major and independent
retailers in this way and could now be in a position to demand rights such as sick pay, paid holiday and pension
contributions.


Damian Walters, Chief Executive of BiKBBI, said: “The Uber ruling is a potential game changer for the home improvement
industry and many retailers will need to quickly adapt how they work with their installers before being forced to do so
in ways that may hurt their businesses.”


BiKBBI recommends that home improvement retailers that rely on subcontracted installers audit the terms of their
commercial relationships against the employment criteria established by the Uber ruling. Where it is clear that
commercial relationships with subcontracted installers do fit the criteria established by the Supreme Court for employee
status, retailers should decide whether to:
• Formally agree terms of employment with installers so that they are fulfilling all necessary obligations;
• Adapt their working model and relationship with installers so that they do not meet the criteria for employment
status that has been established by the Supreme Court’s Uber ruling;
• Consider use of third party platforms, such as Protect My Install or other credible intermediaries, and a hybrid,
demonstrating they no longer hold direct relationships with subcontracted installers. As an example, this could
mean the sale and subcontracting of dry fit installation, utilising the third party platform to transact the
supplementary work.


Damian Walters, added: “Subcontracting works for retailers who are able to call on a flexible, skilled workforce, and for
installers who value the independence of self employment longside the certainty of regular work. However, the debate
about ‘gig economy’ working will inevitably reach our industry soon. It’s absolutely vital to get in front of this by adopting
innovative new working models that ensure installers are treated fairly and retailers can most effectively serve their
customers.”

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