Skip to main content

Workers of the World Unite!

Workers of the World Unite!

The battle lines have been drawn, with opposing forces facing each other ready to engage. The Generals consisting of legal experts and renowned QC’s are, as we speak, preparing their respective strategies to achieve outright victory. What battles are we talking about? It is the battle of individuals working for the so called ‘gig’ economy and their fight to secure employment status and the associated employment rights that go alongside this.

In our last newsletter we highlighted the landmark case lost by mega giant Uber which, established the status of their drivers in the UK as workers, contrary to the position adopted by Uber that their drivers were self-employed.

There are a number of cases which are yet to be heard, against a number of courier companies and the first of these has just delivered its verdict. The case was brought by Mags Dewhurst, a courier working for the courier and logistics company Citysprint.

As with Uber, Citysprint maintained that their couriers were self- employed. To support this claim Citysprint referred to an agreement that the courier was expected to enter into, prior to providing services to Citysprint. The legal agreement called “Confirmation of Tender to Supply Courier Services" stated that couriers were:

• under no obligation to provide services
• that Citysprint was under no obligation to provide work
• that a courier could use a substitute to provide the work, so long as the substitute fulfils criteria
• if the courier did not work they would not get paid
• that the courier was not entitled to holiday, maternity or sick pay
• once ready for work, couriers would be paid by the job

These are classic clauses that you would expect to see in any self-employed contract. However the employment tribunal decided that the terms of the "Confirmation of Tender" document did not reflect the true relationship between the parties. It was therefore necessary to look at the reality of the situation.

When looking at the wider relationship between the couriers and the Company the tribunal found that the Company retained a high level of control to how the couriers operated. The tribunal found that couriers received instructions about delivery jobs from a central control room which told the courier where to pick up an item and where to deliver it to. Couriers were also required to book time off or inform the company if they were going to be late or sick. This element of control and direction lead the tribunal to declare that, in this case, the courier’s status was that of a worker and therefore the courier was entitled to certain minimum employment rights.

Whilst Uber have appealed the verdict and there are further cases pending against Deliveroo, Addison Lee, eCourier, and Excel, these cases illustrate the importance of ensuring that employers clearly define the status of their workers and employees, as the costs to any Company can be substantial if they suddenly have to offer and pay for certain employment rights and benefits and if they have pay unpaid tax and penalties

Getting it right

If you are unsure as to the status of your employees or one of your self-employed contractors, HR:4UK can advise you as to what tests need to be applied to determine legal status.

For further help and advice, speak to one of our advisors by calling 01455 444222 or complete our online enquiry click here and an advisor will contact you shortly.


Joe Janda

HR Services Director