Who? Jacqueline McGuigan, employment law solicitor at TMP Solicitors in London.
Why is she in the news? Represented plumber Gary Smith, who won a significant workers’ rights battle that could have wide-ranging consequences for the ‘gig economy’. Smith wanted to reduce his working days at Pimlico Plumbers following a heart attack. The Court of Appeal agreed with a tribunal that ruled Smith was entitled to basic workers’ rights although he was technically self-employed.
Thoughts on the case: ‘It has been a long journey to get to the Court of Appeal. Mr Smith was “dismissed” in April 2011 and brought tribunal proceedings. His case was heard in 2012 and he was found to be a worker. There have been two appeals upholding the worker status.
‘The case has brought much-needed clarity to the modern world of working. Employers have found new ways of providing work and, while it is attractive for employees to have flexibility, it often comes at a price of missing out on potentially far more lucrative employment rights.’
Dealing with the media: ‘It was manic. Every media outlet wanted to talk about the case. I did television and radio interviews back to back. There was widespread sympathy for Mr Smith’s situation of having a heart attack and then losing his job and livelihood. The case trended on Twitter.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘It was not my chosen career. I got a job in a local law firm as a legal secretary to pay for studies as a social worker. I enjoyed what the firm did so much that I decided to switch career.’
Career high: ‘Setting up my own firm in 2006 with another lawyer and then taking over the practice in 2007. It was risky and challenging, but also exhilarating. As a female lawyer I have broken down a lot of stereotypical barriers in my legal journey.’
Career low: ‘Being dismissed by a law firm for having a baby. I was pregnant with my third child and during my maternity leave I was put through a sham redundancy and dismissed. I brought tribunal proceedings and won. This spurred me on to practising employment law.’