UK Tribunal Strikes Another Blow to Gig Economy with Bike Courier Classification

UK Tribunal Strikes Another Blow to Gig Economy with Bike Courier Classification

In a case with significant implications for the gig economy’s independent contractor model, a labor tribunal in the UK has ruled that a bicycle courier working through the online platform CitySprint counts as an employee of the company and is not self-employed. Jo Faragher has the details at Personnel Today:

The tribunal, which took place on Friday, found that Maggie Dewhurst should be entitled to basic employment rights such as holiday pay, sick pay and the national living wage. She has worked for CitySprint for the past two years, during which time she has been classed as an independent contractor, despite her role being more like that of a worker. She told the tribunal: “We spend all day being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it. We’re under their control.”

Tribunal judge Joanna Wade called CitySprint’s contractual arrangements “contorted”, “indecipherable” and “window dressing”. She added: “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. This gets to the heart of the inequality of bargaining power present in this relationship, and shows that this is not a commercial venture between two corporate entities, as claimed by CitySprint.”

This follows just a few months on the heels of another tribunal ruling that Uber drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. At the CIPD’s People Management blog, Marianne Calnan considers the implications of these cases for the gig economy writ large:

Although Friday’s ruling applies to Dewhurst specifically, it opens the door to broader action against CitySprint, which has 3,500 self-employed couriers in the UK. The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which backed the case, has similar hearings pending in March and April against courier companies Addison Lee, eCourier and Excel. …

While limited in their scope and subject to appeal, these cases point to a willingness among courts to apply stringent criteria to self-employed status, a trend that has implications beyond the gig economy embodied by couriers and Uber drivers. Construction workers, chambermaids and warehouse staff are often working on comparable contracts, according to employment lawyers, as well as the growing network of self-employed delivery drivers.