CitySprint tribunal verdict deals further blow to the gig economy

An employment tribunal has handed down a verdict in the case against CitySprint.

Cycle courier Mags Dewhurst won the case she had brought against the firm saying that they were acting unlawfully by not offering holiday and sick pay. She had claimed that she should be classified as a worker rather than an independent contractor and the tribunal agreed, meaning that she will be entitled to holiday pay, national minimum wage, sick pay and the protection of the whistleblowing legislation.

Mags Dewhurst, who averages 50 miles a day as a cycle courier in London, told the Guardian that:

“This wasn’t just about me. It was about people who have been working here for 20 years without any of these rights. They argued that we weren’t part of the company, but you cannot run a £145m courier business without employing a single courier.”

During the case, the court had head from Ms. Dewhurst that while it was possible for her as an ‘independent contractor’ to refuse to carry out a job, it is “widely understood” that this is “not a good idea”.  She said in her witness statement the controllers would find that “disruptive”, adding: “Ultimately this would impact on the amount of work I am allocated.”

In the written decision, Judge Wade explained that  CitySprint couriers “have little autonomy to determine the manner in which their services are performed”, concluding Ms Dewhurst was therefore a worker, and that CitySprint had as a result unlawfully failed to pay her for two days of holiday she had taken.

This verdict follows an employment tribunal ruling in October, dubbed ‘the employment law case of the year’, which ruled that Uber drivers should be classified as workers rather than self-employed. Uber have appealed the verdict and there are further cases pending against Deliveroo, Addison Lee, eCourier, and Excel.

Paul Jennings, partner at law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite, who represented Ms. Dewhurst said:

“Until now couriers have occupied a vulnerable position. They carry out physically demanding work, in dangerous conditions, but cannot take paid leave.  In the wake of this judgement, we expect that thousands of couriers across the capital will look to assert their rights and seek back pay.”

Emma O’Leary is an employment law consultant for ELAS. She says:

“Whilst we are not convinced that this is the test case it’s being touted as, this verdict does deal another blow to the gig economy and provide further clarity on the employment status muddle. CitySprint has around 3,500 couriers in the UK and this ruling could potentially open the floodgate for further claims. It will be interesting to see how this case impacts on the wider gig economy and whether or not it will prove to be a sustainable business model given the multitude of pending tribunal hearings.”

Author: Editorial Team

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