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Employment Alert: Bike Courier is a “Worker” Says Employment Tribunal

The Development

Self-employment and atypical working arrangements are on the rise, driven in part by the changing economy and by modern ways of working. In recent cases, the Employment Tribunal has scrutinised these relationships and stepped in to dismiss business's claims that individuals are self-employed independent contractors and to confer legal rights on them as workers.

This month, in Dewhurst v CitySprint UK Ltd, the Employment Tribunal said that a bicycle courier was a "worker" of the courier firm for the purposes of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The Tribunal looked behind the contractual documents, which labelled Ms. Dewhurst as self-employed. Ms. Dewhurst was integrated into CitySprint’s business. She was expected to work when she said she would, and did not feel able to turn down work; she was tracked by GPS and given directions; she was told to smile and wear a uniform; and CitySprint was in charge of calculating her pay. The Tribunal said that Ms. Dewhurst was a worker, and awarded her two days' holiday pay.

Practical Implications

This case follows the decision last year that UBER drivers are also "workers." These cases call into question the working practices relied on by many business models in the "Gig Economy," particularly those that use technology platforms to link customers to services. These cases make clear that labelling someone a freelance worker or independent contractor will not be sufficient if the reality does not support this. Those businesses are at risk of worker-related claims, such as for holiday pay and minimum wage. Further challenges and developments in this area are awaited. There are four more courier cases waiting to be heard, and UBER is appealing against its decision. The Government has launched an inquiry into the Future World of Work and Rights of Workers and many suggest that a new category of "worker" is needed. Watch this space!

© 2022 Vedder PriceNational Law Review, Volume VII, Number 56
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About this Author

Jonathan Maude Labor and Employment Law Attorney Vedder Price Law Firm
Partner

Jonathan Maude is a Partner at Vedder Price and a member of the Labor and Employment group in the firm’s London office.

Mr. Maude is an experienced and well-respected practitioner working in labor and employment law. He regularly advises across the full spectrum of employment law-related issues in the contentious and noncontentious spheres with a particular emphasis on advising corporate clients on complex strategic human resource-related matters.

Jonathan Maude's practice can be broadly broken down into the two areas...

+44 (0)20 3667 2860
Esther Langdon, Employment, LItigation, Attorney, Vedder Price Law FIrm
Solicitor

Esther Langdon is an Associate in the Labor and Employment group in the firm's London office.

Ms. Langdon advises clients on all aspects of employment law, with a particular emphasis on contentious matters before the Employment Tribunal and the High Court. She also advises on the full range of personnel matters, including day-to-day human resources support, disciplinary and grievance issues, reorganizations, restructuring and redundancies.

+44 (0)20 3667 2863
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