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Published on March 29th, 2021 | by The GC Team

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KBB retailers risk wave of employment tribunals following Uber ruling, warns trade institute

Published on behalf of The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation

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 published today, 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.

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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