Not surprisingly following the decision in the landmark Uber case in October 2016, the Employment Tribunals have again been asked to consider the employment status of the gig-economy workers.
The Uber case was of course the first of its kind in the UK. In this case the Tribunal found in favour of the Claimant in establishing that Uber drivers are not truly self-employed but are in fact “workers” entitled to certain employment rights under the Employment Rights Act 1996. It was of course a monumental decision after years of unscrupulous Employers avoiding paying their workers the National minimum wage and holiday pay amongst other rights.
In the most recent case of Dewhurst v CitySprint Ltd, the London Central Employment Tribunal found that a bicycle courier was an employee of the courier firm for the purposes of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
In Dewhurst, the Claimant was a cycle courier for CitySprint Ltd in London. Although she was not contracted to specific hours, she typically worked four days a week from 9:30am to 6:30pm. During her working hours, she was logged into the company’s tracking system and jobs were assigned on this basis.
Despite CitySprint Ltd issuing a document to all new couriers entitled “Confirmation of Tender to Supply Courier Services to CitySprint Ltd” describing couriers as self-employed, the Tribunal looked beyond this and, relying on the decision in Autoclenz Ltd v Belcher, looked at the reality of the situation before them.
The Tribunal found that the Claimant was expected to work when she said she would, was instructed to wear a uniform, was told when she would be paid and how much and was given directions to each job whilst logged into their system. She therefore was working on CitySprint Ltd’s behalf as a worker and as such was successful in a claim for two days’ holiday pay.
In the Judgement, Judge Jo Wade commented on the inequality of bargaining power in the relationship between the couriers and CitySprint. In paragraph 14 of the Judgement she wrote that “It is CitySprint which has the power to regulate the amount of work available, and it keeps its couriers busy by limiting the size of the fleet.”
The decision is another huge victory for gig-economy workers everywhere. It is certainly a warning to companies who try to mask their real intentions and avoid giving workers the rights they should be entitled to. I expect that we will now see a flood of similar cases brought before Employment Tribunals around the country. We already know of two hearings listed on similar facts before Employment Tribunals in March and April 2017 – watch this space.