Sunday, 8 January 2017

A Courier Wins Holiday Pay In Key Tribunal Ruling On Gig Economy


A cycle courier working for the delivery firm CitySprint has won the right to paid holidays and minimum pay in a key ruling on the gig economy.

The central London employment tribunal ruled that CitySprint had unlawfully failed to award holiday pay to Mags Dewhurst and had wrongly classed her as a self-employed freelancer. CitySprint, which has 3,500 self-employed couriers in the UK, could now face further claims.

Judge Joanna Wade described CitySprint’s contractual arrangements as contorted, indecipherable and window-dressing.

The latest ruling comes as concerns mount over the growing trend towards self-employed workforces and growing pressure on firms in the gig economy to treat workers more fairly and offer basic employment benefits.

The verdict on CitySprint follows an employment tribunal in October which found in favour of drivers for the taxi-hailing firm Uber. Two drivers, making a claim on behalf of 17 others, argued they were not self-employed and should be classed as workers. The ruling could eventually force the firm to treat all of its 40,000 UK drivers as such. Uber, which argues it is a tech company rather than a transport firm, is appealing against the ruling.

Dewhurst, who has made deliveries for tCitySprint for more than two years, does not receive a guaranteed wage, sick pay or holiday pay, because the company considers her an independent contractor. The tribunal found that her formal employment classification should be as a worker, and as such entitled to paid holiday, the national minimum wage and potentially sick pay.

Jason Moyer-Lee, the head of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which is backing cases against courier firms including Addison Lee, eCourier and Excel, has said the CitySprint tribunal would act as a test case. The other hearings are due in March and April.

The government recently announced a six-month review of modern working practices and HMRC is setting up a new unit, the employment status and intermediaries team, to investigate companies.

Paul Jennings, a partner at the law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite, which represented Dewhurst, said the ruling did not mean CitySprint would have to give holiday pay to all its workers.

“Until now couriers have occupied a vulnerable position. They carry out physically demanding work in dangerous conditions, but cannot take paid leave,” he said. “In the wake of this judgment, we expect thousands of couriers across the capital will look to assert their rights and seek back-pay.”

He described the judgment as “legally and ethically the right outcome”.

CitySprint said: “We are disappointed with today’s ruling. It is important to remember that this applies to a single individual and was not a test case. We enjoy a good relationship with our fleet, many of whom have worked with us for some time, and have always strived to help them maximise their earnings.

“Evidence presented at the tribunal confirmed that the vast majority of our couriers enjoy the freedom and flexibility of their current role. As was clearly highlighted in this case, CitySprint is a good company that pays its couriers some of the best rates in the industry.”

The company has 42 days to lodge an appeal, but said it would not be commenting further until it had reviewed the judgment. It called on the government to improve clarity on employment rules.

“This case has demonstrated that there is still widespread confusion regarding this area of law, which is why we are calling on the government to provide better support and help for businesses across the UK who could be similarly affected,” CitySprint said.

Dewhurst, 29, who still works for CitySprint, was at work when the decision was made public. The south Londoner cycles an average of 50 miles a day transporting blood, medicines, chemotherapy drugs and organs to hospitals and clinics across the capital.

She said she was “chuffed” with the tribunal’s ruling. “This is so much more important than my two days’ holiday,” she said. “This wasn’t just about me. It was about people who have been working here for 20 years without any of these rights.

“They argued that we weren’t part of the company, but you cannot run a £145m courier businesses without employing a single courier,” she said.



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