Sharps fitter takes legal action over employment rights

A subcontracted fitter working for Sharps Bedrooms is taking legal action to be classed as an employed worker with the right to claim holiday and sick pay.

David Lockwood has worked as a fitter for Sharps for around 30 years, installing prefabricated fitted furniture such as wardrobes and cupboards.

Lockwood alleges that Sharps is denying him the right to work for competitor companies, as well as subjecting him to financial penalties – which he argues could define his status as an official worker of the company.

According to Lockwood, Sharps controls the dates, times and fees for the work he undertakes, and reserves the right to impose a financial penalty if he gives less than 72 hours’ notice if he cannot attend a job.

Being classed as officially employed by Sharps would give Lockwood certain benefits, such as holiday pay, the right to the legal minimum wage, and access to statutory sick pay.

Lockwood believes that Sharps has used “unlawful loopholes” to take advantage of subcontractors, adding that he feels “totally failed and disrespected” by the company after his long years of service.

Lockwood has engaged legal firm Leigh Day to help fight his case. Senior associate solicitor at the firm, Ryan Bradshaw, said that despite Lockwood’s almost three decades of service, Sharps treats him “as a subcontractor and are in control of David’s work, setting the fees and parameters of his work”.

David Lockwood, the fitter taking legal action against Sharps Bedrooms

“Furthermore, they are allegedly assuring customers that David is a member of their staff, yet putting ‘subcontractor’ on his pay statements and terms of engagement. We hope that by bringing this legal claim, David’s employment status can be settled and he will have access to the holiday pay and sick pay that he is owed.”

Leigh Day says that despite treating him as a subcontractor, Lockwood alleges that Sharps has told customers that fittings would be carried out by their “own personnel”.

Additionally, the legal firm insists that Sharps makes deductions from his wages not only for tax but also workplace liability insurance, under a non-negotiable agreement. The company apparently labelled this as a ‘Company Subcontractor Insurance Scheme’. 

Lockwood’s case is being supported by community interest company Law for Change, which funds public interest cases it believes will effect lasting social changes.

Law for Change’s founder, Stephen Kinsella, says that the organisation is proud to support Lockwood in his fight for workers’ rights.

“Our mission is to back legal actions that have a clear social benefit and the erosion of workers’ rights under sham self-employed contracts is an area we are particularly concerned about. 

“It is clear that a positive outcome for David and the clarification of his employment status could not only secure better contract rights for him, but also benefit workers we believe are being denied the benefits and protections they are entitled to.”

Lockwood’s legal claim was filed at the Employment Tribunal in August 2023. Since this time, Sharps has informed the Employment Tribunal it denies the claim.

kbbreview has approached Sharps for comment, but has yet to receive a response. Speaking to the Guardian, a spokesperson from Sharps said: “We disagree with the claims made by David Lockwood and Leigh Day and will be robustly challenging any legal action.”

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