In Dewhurst v CitySprint UK (2017), a case that has significant ramifications for the ‘gig economy’, the London Central Employment Tribunal held that a Cycle Courier for CitySprint UK was a worker and was therefore entitled to receive holiday pay, the national living wage, sick pay, and other benefits.
CitySprintUK had argued that the Claimant, Mags Dewhurst, was a self-employed independent contractor and was therefore not entitled to holiday pay, the national living wage, sick pay, etc. Nevertheless, Employment Judge Wade held that the Claimant’s contract was “contorted”, “indecipherable” and “window-dressing”, and that the reality of the position was that CitySprint controlled the amount of work available, and during working hours the Claimant could not in essence provide a service to anybody but CitySprint. Hence, the Claimant was a worker, and entitled to the aforementioned benefits.
There are 3 similar cases against other courier companies in the pipeline, involving Excel, E-Courier, and Addison Lee, which are due to be heard in March and April 2017. The CitySprint case also follows close on the heels of the October 2016 Judgment in the Uber case in which drivers supplying the service for the transportation network company were held to be workers rather than self-employed independent contractors. Uber has appealed, and the outcome of that appeal is expected later this year.
In terms of the ‘gig economy’, last November the Government appointed Mathew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Arts, to lead a 6 month review into modern working practices. The review will address issues such as job security. When taking on the task, Mr Taylor stated: “The most important part of our process is getting out and about to talk to businesses and workers across Britain about their experiences of modern work….As well as making specific recommendations I hope the Review will promote a national conversation and explore how we can all contribute to work that provides opportunity, fairness and dignity.”
The HMRC also recently announced that it was setting up a new unit to investigate firms that use large numbers of self-employed contractors and agency workers to deliver their services.
In relation to the CitySprint case, Jon Katona, the vice-president of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), stated: “This is a huge victory for couriers, and workers everywhere who have been asked to sign their rights away for a job. And it’s a warning to other[s] that masquerading as a non-employer, or as a go-between for independent businessmen is over.” In response to the Judgment, CitySprint stated: “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….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.”
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