Monday 27 March 2017

Second Cycle Courier Wins Holiday Pay Ruling

Holiday Pay

A second cycle courier has won the right to paid holidays and minimum pay in a ruling that could cause major upheaval in the gig economy.

The central London employment tribunal ruled that Excel, a courier company which is now part of CitySprint, had unlawfully failed to award Andrew Boxer holiday pay and wrongly classed him as an independent contractor.

The company was ordered to pay him a week’s holiday pay or £321.16.

Judge Joanna Wade said the contract Boxer had signed “did not reflect the reality of the situation” and he had signed it because he had no choice.

“The inequality of bargaining power at this point was very notable,” she said in a two-page ruling.

Wade said that she had found Boxer was classed as a worker and not an independent contractor because he was required to work five days a week under the Excel controller, he was paid a non-negotiable fixed rate for his work and played no part in calculating that pay.

Boxer could not take time off without notice, was expected to wait between jobs and not take a break when he was needed.

Workers employed under a contract in which they must always turn up for work even if they don’t want to, are entitled to employment rights including the national living wage, holiday pay and protection against discrimination. They are not, however, guaranteed other benefits including sick pay and maternity leave that employees are entitled to.

A self-employed independent contractor receives no entitlement to employment rights beyond a basic health and safety and anti-discrimination framework.

The Boxer case, which Excel did not contest – the firm is in liquidation and was taken over by CitySprint last year – adds to pressure on courier companies to change their way of working.

Boxer’s case is the latest in a string of tribunals against gig economy employers including the taxi hailing service Uber, and the second of four relating to couriers’ employment status backed by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB). The next case, against eCourier, is due to be heard in May. The fourth is against Addison Lee.

Wade is overseeing all four IWGB cases. She ruled in January ruled that CitySprint had wrongly classed the courier Mags Dewhurst as a self-employed freelancer. CitySprint is planning to appeal.

Jason Moyer-Lee, the head of the IWGB, said he planned to write to eCourier and Addison Lee asking them to concede. “These courier companies all operate in the same way and I can’t see how they can convince the same judge that they are an exception,” he said.

“This judgment is yet further evidence of what we have known to be true all along. Courier companies are unlawfully depriving their workers of rights.”

The widespread use of self-employed workers is the subject of an inquiry by MPs. The prime minister has also commissioned Tony Blair’s former policy officer Matthew Taylor to look into the matter.

Moyer-Lee said: “We are calling on the government to step up enforcement of workers’ employment rights. Companies like Excel can unlawfully deprive workers of their rights for years and the only financial cost is £321.16. For a company like this that is not a deterrent.”



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