Law experts are expecting a tidal wave of legal claims for holiday pay and back pay after a CitySprint cycle courier won the right at an employment tribunal to be classed as a worker instead of a self-employed sub-contractor.
Paul Jennings, partner at law firm Wells Braithwaite, said: “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.”
A spokesman for Wells Braithwaite, which represented the CitySprint courier Maggie Dewhurst at the tribunal, added:
These proceedings were a test case and the first in a series of co-ordinated legal actions against the UK’s major courier companies.
Employment tribunal rulings are also expected in the near future in three similar cases involving cycle couriers at Excel, Addison Lee and ecourier.
THE COURT CASE – Ms Dewhurst took CitySprint to court over claims she was a ‘worker’ rather than self employed because her working conditions were controlled by CitySprint.
She told the tribunal she was given delivery instructions by her controller and that while it was “possible” to refuse a carry out a job, “it was widely understood this was not a good idea”.
Ms Dewhurst (above right) added:
I understand why CitySprint and other courier companies attempt to define couriers as a network of independent businesses. It drives down costs and transfers risk.
But like most couriers, I occupy a vulnerable position and CitySprint does not guarantee the national minimum wage, or provide holiday or sick pay.
THE JUDGEMENT – Judge Joanna Wade ruled that Ms Dewhurst should have been classed as a worker by CitySprint and not a self employed courier providing services on a contractual basis.
The judge said that parts of her contract were, “contorted and self destructive” because turning down jobs could lead to her being offered less work. She added: “CitySprint couriers have little autonomy to determine the manner in which their services are performed.”
COMMENT – A spokesman for CitySprint said: “We are disappointed with the judge’s ruling. It is important to remember however that this applies to a single individual. CitySprint enjoys a god relationship with its fleet, with the vast majority of our couriers enjoying the freedom and flexibility of their current role.”