Uber, Hermes and employment status

20 July 2016

This week there have been more news stories about employment status and those working in growing sectors – Uber drivers and Hermes couriers – known as the “gig economy”.

In each instance, the company has claimed that the individuals carrying out work under their name are self-employed contractors and those carrying out the work have asserted they are (at least) workers.

Uber is being taken to Employment Tribunal by 19 of its drivers who claim worker status; a test case of two of those drivers is currently proceeding. It is likely to be argued that they should be treated as workers due to: (i) the control exercised over them, (ii) the personal service they provide, (iii) not being regarded as carrying on their own ‘business’, and (iv) mutuality of obligations.

If the drivers are successful then, amongst other things, they will be entitled to: (a) the National Minimum Wage, (b) holiday pay, (c) the Equality Act rights for workers, (d) the right not to suffer unauthorised deductions from wages, (e) pension auto-enrolment, (f) rights under the Working Time Regulations, (g) whistleblower protection.

It has been reported that four bicycle courier companies are being sued on similar grounds and those claims will be heard in late 2016/early 2017.

In reply, the companies argue that they engage freelance drivers/couriers who can pick up as much or as little work as they want to undertake and essentially run their own micro-businesses.

For a reminder on the distinctions between employees, workers and self-employed contractors view our guide here.

If you would like to speak with one of our team about issues relating to employment status – email: info@kervinandbarnes.com or call: 0203 178 5361.