January 31, 2017

Latest "Gig Economy" Case: Courier Held to Be a Worker

In the latest in a string of cases concerning the employment status of those working in the “gig economy”, the Employment Tribunal in Dewhurst v City Sprint UK Ltd ET2202512/2016 considered whether a courier was a worker or a self-employed contractor.

Ms Dewhurst, a cycle courier, brought a claim against the courier company, CitySprint, alleging that she was a worker, and not a self-employed contractor. As with all its couriers, CitySprint had required Ms Dewhurst to sign up to a contractual document purporting to treat her as a self-employed contractor. However, the Employment Tribunal found this did not reflect the reality of the situation, which was that Ms Dewhurst was a worker. In particular, it found that she was integrated into CitySprint’s business and had little autonomy when performing her work, these being characteristics of worker status. In coming to this decision, it took into account a number of factors including the following: (i) the couriers worked under the direction of a controller; (ii) they were required to wear a CitySprint uniform; (iii) they had a very limited right to appoint a substitute; and (iii) although the contractual document referred to couriers invoicing CitySprint, in reality CitySprint calculated the amounts due and paid them weekly. As a worker, Ms Dewhurst will benefit from certain rights which are not available to self-employed contractors, including the right to the national minimum wage, rest breaks and paid annual leave.

While this decision (as a first instance decision) is not binding, it does signal a clear shift in the treatment of those working in the gig economy and comes hot off the heels of a similar decision last year concerning Uber drivers: Uber Drivers Are Workers, Not Self-Employed Contractors.

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