Hermes couriers are workers and not self-employed, according to an employment tribunal ruling.
A group of 65 Hermes couriers took the delivery service to the tribunal after they said they had been denied basic workers’ rights.
The tribunal found that the couriers were not independent contractors, which Hermes argued, but instead were workers, and therefore entitled to rights such as the national living wage and holiday pay.
The decision was described by the GMB union as a “landmark” ruling.Hermes boss is ‘shocked’ at firm’s treatment of self-employed workers
Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, said: “This is yet another ruling that shows the gig economy for what it is – old fashioned exploitation under a shiny new facade.
“Bosses can’t just pick and choose which laws to obey. Workers’ right were hard won, GMB isn’t about to sit back and let them be eroded or removed by the latest loophole employers have come up with to make a few extra quid.
“Not only will this judgement directly affect more than 14,000 Hermes couriers across the country, it’s another nail in the coffin of the exploitative bogus self-employment model which is increasingly rife across the UK.”
Frank Field MP, who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee and previously delivered a scathing report on working conditions at Hermes, said the ruling “ranks among the most substantial judicial interventions ever to support vulnerable workers in this country”.
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“Can even the World Cup produce a better result than this? The decision is a mega knockback to those companies still using old means of exploiting vulnerable workers,” he added.
A Hermes spokesperson said: “We will carefully review the tribunal’s decision, but we are likely to appeal it given that it goes against previous decisions, our understanding of the witness evidence and what we believe the law to be.
“Nevertheless we have always been fully prepared for any outcome of this decision and its impact on 15 couriers and former couriers. In the meantime it is business as usual and we remain committed to providing couriers with the benefits of flexible working and the ability to earn well in excess of the National Living Wage.”Simon McVicker, director of policy at IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) said uncertainty about who is and is not self-employed needs to stop.
“It is unacceptable that policymakers are relying on costly, time-consuming court cases as the first port of call in determining employment status,” he added.
“We should be cautious, however, not to take today’s case as being representative of the ‘gig economy’ or wider self-employment, and then try to regulate these ways of working into oblivion.
“The reality is that the vast majority of self-employed engagements are what they claim to be: genuine business-to-business engagements which are beneficial to both parties, and to the wider UK economy.”