An employment tribunal in Leeds has ruled that 65 Hermes couriers are actually workers as opposed to being self-employed in the most recent “gig economy” case. The couriers disclosed that they had been denied basic workers’ rights, when in fact they are entitled to receive benefits such as holidays and national minimum wage.
The GMB union have described the decision as a “landmark” ruling. General GMB secretary, Tim Roache, said, “This is yet another ruling that shows the gig economy for what it is – old fashioned exploitation under a shiny new façade. Bosses can’t just pick and choose what 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.”
This decision will affect 14,500 drivers across the country who are on the same contract. A further hearing will go ahead to calculate national minimum wage, holiday pay and any unlawful deductions that the drivers should receive as back pay. This is just the latest example in a series of gig economy judgments against companies such as Addison Lee and Uber, who have also classified couriers/taxi-drivers as self-employed, when the court classed them as workers.
Hermes have stated “We will carefully review the tribunal’s decision, but we are likely to appeal given that it goes against previous decisions, our understanding of 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 former couriers. In the meantime it is business as usual and we remain committed to providing couriers with the benefits of flexible working.”
Labour MP and Chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, Frank Field, called the decision “among the most substantial judicial interventions ever to support vulnerable workers in this country.”
The Association of Independent Professions and the Self-employed are urging the government to write a positive definition of self-employment into law.
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