An employment tribunal has found a group of Hermes couriers are workers and not independent contractors, in a ‘landmark’ ruling against exploitation of gig economy workers.
The couriers working for the parcel delivery company are now entitled to receive basic working rights such as the minimum wage and holiday pay. The ruling has also meant the couriers can reclaim unlawful deductions from their wages as they had been previously classified as self-employed when they shouldn’t have been.
The GMB, who helped take the case to the tribunal, stated around 14,500 couriers are likely to be affected by this ruling. This is because they are all under the same contract as the 65 couriers and will therefore be entitled to the same rights.
The ruling has been described as “another nail in the coffin of the exploitative, bogus self-employment model which is increasingly rife across the UK” by the GMB’s general secretary, Tim Roache.
“Bosses can’t just pick up and choose which laws to obey. Workers’ rights were hard won, GMB isn’t about to sit back and let them be eroded or removed by the latest loophole employers have come up with to make a few extra quid”.
The Labour chair of the work and pensions committee, Frank Field, stated the decision ranked “among the most substantial judicial interventions ever to support vulnerable workers in this country”.
“Can even the World Cup produce a better result than this?” joked Field.
In response to the ruling, a Hermes spokesperson stated “We will carefully review the tribunal’s decision, but we are likely to appeal it given that it goes against previous decisions, our understanding of the witness evidence and what we believe the law to be.
Nevertheless we have always been fully prepared for any outcome of this decision and its impact on 15 couriers and [the] former couriers [who took the case]. In the meantime it is business as usual and we remain committed to providing couriers with the benefits of flexible working and the ability to earn well in excess of the National Living Wage”.
The judgment is similar to cases brought against Uber, Addison Lee and City Sprint, where judges have ruled that the staff should be given the legal classification as ‘workers’. This means they should receive basic working rights such as holiday pay and the minimum wage.
The GMB is also involved with legal action against three Amazon delivery firms on the same principles. Click here to read our article: “Amazon delivery firms face legal challenge over driver’s rights”.
Director of policy at IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), Simon McVicker believes the uncertainty on employment status needs to stop.
“It is unacceptable that policymakers are relying on costly, time-consuming court cases as the first post of call in determining employment status”.
“We should be cautious, however, not to take today’s case as being representative of the ‘gig economy’ or wider self-employment, and then try to regulate these ways or working into oblivion”.
If you need any support or guidance on employment status, please contact a member of the HPC team:
T: 0844 800 5932