Review your subcontracting policy to stay legal, urges BiKBBI

The British Institute of Kitchen Bedroom and Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI) has called for KBB businesses to review their relationships with subcontractors, following recent legal action brought against Sharps Bedrooms over worker’s rights.

Referring to the ongoing case, Damien Walters, chief executive at the BiKBBI said: “While we are unable to comment on this specific case for legal reasons, I can confirm that following two relatively recent high-profile cases (Smith vs Pimlico Plumbers (2018) and Farrar vs Uber (2021)) BiKBBI issued industry guidance, as clearly these cases set precedent for potential future claims.”

In February of 2021, a legal ruling decided that Uber drivers must be classed as workers with rights to holiday pay and the minimum wage. This was described as a landmark ruling in the media, that many anticipated would set a precedent for similar so-called ‘gig economy’ jobs.

Following the Uber ruling, BiKBBI warned that “the model of subcontracting installers to fit new kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms will now be open to scrutiny”. The Institute recommended retailers to audit their relationships with subcontracted installers, and if necessary, adapt their working practices to avoid being vulnerable to employment tribunals.

In light of the recent and ongoing Sharps legal case, the BiKBBI has reaffirmed its position advising businesses that engage subcontractors to “review their relationships as an immediate priority”.

Walters emphasised that many KBB businesses operate using subcontractors, and in most instances, these relationships are “perfectly legitimate and subsequently would not be subject to employment rights scrutiny”.

However, he pointed out that in some situations, “a particular arrangement between both parties may override the written contract and, if a business treats a subcontractor as an employee, then the subcontractor may be entitled to employment rights”.

Walters acknowledged that the institute “fully supports” KBB retailers that operate a subcontracted model, along with retailers that choose to employ their own installers full time. Furthermore, he said that the Institute believes that “businesses should be allowed to negotiate mutually beneficial, lawful and fair trading terms between themselves”.

He concluded: “If terms are not fair, and that subsequently leads to exploitation of labour, then these businesses should face scrutiny and those affected be covered by employment law protection.”

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