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Gig Economy – Royal Mail Group Facing Legal Action From Drivers

The trend towards gig economy drivers and contractors demanding employment status rights will continue throughout 2018. This should come as no surprise when you consider the recent report published by parliamentary committees which determined nearly 1.6 million people work for gig-economy giants and find relatively little protection provided under current employment law due to their status. 

We previously reported on the Uber drivers ongoing battle in August 2016, and the EAT decision in November 2017 if you haven’t been keeping up with our gig economy posts. 

More recently, in December 2017, couriers at Parcelforce Worldwide commenced legal action against its parent group, Royal Mail Group Ltd, over failure to pay drivers the national minimum wage and holiday pay.  

The drivers, currently classified as self-employed, are not entitled to the same legal rights and protections as employees, and as such are challenging their employer for paternity pay, sick pay and protections provided to employees under the Equality Act. 

A first hearing was held at the Employment Tribunal on 16 February 2018, but no updates have yet been published and we are intently watching this matter, conscious of the growing impact recent ET and EAT decisions have for employers—in particular if you run a ‘gig-economy’ type business, as you will need to be careful to ensure that your contractors aren’t deemed to be workers and therefore entitled to holiday pay, National Minimum Wage, and restricted to a 48-hour working week. 

DPD, who delivers parcels for Marks & Spencer, Amazon and John Lewis amongst others, pays drivers per parcel delivered. Drivers face daily penalties if they cannot cover their delivery rounds, and DPD does not provide sick or holiday pay as they class drivers as self-employed. 

In January 2018, a DPD driver, Don Lane, missed appointments with specialists to attend to his diabetes due to pressure to cover his rounds and subsequently passed away due to complications associated with diabetes. He collapsed several times whilst on delivery rounds, including falling into a diabetic coma whilst driving the DPD van. He had previously been fined by DPD for missing rounds in order to visit a specialist to look into eye damage caused by his diabetes. 

On 13 June 2018, the Supreme Court held that the Pimlico Plumbers Employment Tribunal (and subsequently Employment Appeals Tribunal) was entitled to conclude that Mr Smith was a ‘worker’ under s230(3)(b) of the Employment Rights Act. 

There has been recent pressure on gig-economy employers and the government alike to find some resolve on what rights or benefits gig-economy businesses must provide.

If you need help and advice regarding employment status, please do not hesitate to contact me or the employment team on 0113 350 4030 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk

If you would like to be kept up to date with recent Employment law updates, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

Richard Newstead

Richard qualified as a Legal Executive over 20 years ago and has significant experience in Employment law and Litigation.

Richard acts for both employers and employees drafting and advising on settlement agreements, contracts of employment, consultancy agreements, directors service agreements and general workplace policies. He acts for commercial clients in the employment tribunal dealing with unfair dismissals, constructive dismissals and claims for discrimination.
Richard Newstead

Latest posts by Richard Newstead (see all)

Richard Newstead

Richard qualified as a Legal Executive over 20 years ago and has significant experience in Employment law and Litigation. Richard acts for both employers and employees drafting and advising on settlement agreements, contracts of employment, consultancy agreements, directors service agreements and general workplace policies. He acts for commercial clients in the employment tribunal dealing with unfair dismissals, constructive dismissals and claims for discrimination.

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