European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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United Kingdom

27 January 2017

Not all Uber and CitySprint drivers are self-employed

On 6 January 2017, the Central London Employment Tribunal found that a courier with the firm CitySprint could not be classed as an independent contractor but was a ‘worker’.

This judgment (Dewhurst v CitySprint UK) follows a similar landmark ruling by the Central London Employment Tribunal on 28 October 2016, according to which four drivers with the firm Uber should be classed not as independent contractors but as ‘workers’ (see The Guardian, 28 October 2016 and the press release issued by GMB, the trade union that had brought the case). The company, which regards itself as a technology firm and not as a transport business has appealed the decision (see The Guardian, 14 December 2016).

The CitySprint case concerned a woman who had been working as an independent – or self-employed – contractor for two years and received no guaranteed wage, paid holiday or sick pay. The tribunal ruled that her official status should have been that of ‘worker’ and not ‘self-employed’ (see The Guardian, 6 January 2017). As in the Uber case, this ruling could see a number of CitySprint’s 3 500 couriers, notably those working exclusively for the company, accorded ‘worker’ status. This is a status particular to the United Kingdom. A ‘worker’ is neither an ‘employee’ (entitled to all legal protections, e.g. from unfair dismissal or redundancy) nor a ‘self-employed contractor’ (benefiting only from those protections laid down in the contract). It is an intermediate status, the main entitlements of which are: payment of the minimum wage (the National Living Wage is £7.20, or €8.08, an hour), the right to paid holiday amounting to 5.6 weeks per year (including public holidays), daily and weekly rest breaks, a maximum working time of 48 hours a week (unless the worker opts out) and protection against discrimination. According to Jason Moyer-Lee, the head of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), other rulings are expected in similar cases brought against courier firms, including Addison Lee, eCourier and Excel. The hearings are due to take place in March and April.

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