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Latest gig economy tribunal rules couriers are workers not self-employed

A group of Hermes couriers has scored a resounding victory in the ongoing battle between gig economy employers and those who work for them.

In what is considered one of the most significant developments so far, an employment tribunal has ruled that the 65 couriers should be treated as staff and not self-employed workers and thus entitled to receive the minimum wage and holiday pay.

They will also be able to reclaim unlawful deductions from their wages because they have been incorrectly classed as self-employed.

Important implications

The GMB Union, which supported the claim by the 65 workers, called it a landmark victory and said the case had important implications because it was likely to affect 14,500 other couriers engaged under the same contract.

Tim Roache, the GMB's general secretary, said: "Bosses can't just pick 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 quid."

Hermes is expected to appeal the decision. A spokesperson said: "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."

They added: "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.'

Other victories

The decision comes hot on the heels of the Pimlico Plumbers case in which the Supreme Court ruled that a gas engineer who had worked for the company for six years until he had a heart attack, should have been treated as an employee.

The Hermes ruling also mirrors verdicts in cases brought against Uber, Addison Lee, Citysprint, Excel and eCourier in which the companies have all been unsuccessful in defending the claims.

So far the tide of litigation shows no sign of slowing:

  • The Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain is backing claims by former drivers of three taxi firms - Green Tomato Cars in London, national firm Blacklane and Birmingham's A2B - who say they are workers and not independent contractors;
  • The GMB has announced legal action against three Amazon delivery companies

The number of cases being brought makes it vitally important for firms who think they may be affected to review contracts, holiday pay arrangements and assess the risk of a claim from those who are no longer engaged by the business.

For help and advice about legal employment issues please contact our specialist Employment Law team.

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