The Central London Employment Tribunal has ruled that private car and courier organisation Addison Lee has unlawfully failed to pay a former cycle courier for a weeks’ holiday, misclassifying the courier as self-employed rather than as a worker.
In the case Mr C. Gascoigne v Addison Lee, former cycle courier Gascoigne, who worked for Addison Lee between 2008 and March 2017, contended that he was employed by the courier organisation as a worker rather than hired as a self-employed independent contractor. As a worker, Gascoigne would be entitled to employment rights such as holiday pay and the national minimum wage. He brought the case to the Central London Employment Tribunal in order to claim for pay for one week of holiday that he took in March 2016 but was not paid for.
Addison Lee refuted Gascoigne’s claim, however employment judge Wade, who oversaw the case, found that the working relationship advertised on the organisation’s website and carried out in practice by Gascoigne was reflective of the courier being a worker rather than an independent contractor.
For example, Gascoigne was given no choice or negotiating power when it came to the terms of his contract, and pay was set at a universal piece rate by Addison Lee. Gascoigne and his former colleagues were paid weekly at £3.25 per job, from which Addison Lee took an admin fee and payment for insurance. Gascoigne could be eligible for a bonus if he performed 70 or more jobs in a week, and he was still paid even if a customer cancelled or did not pay. Although Gascoigne was required to pay his own tax and national insurance, Addison Lee issued a weekly combined invoice and statement. This was akin to a payslip and was based entirely on Addison Lee’s own data.
The workload performed was managed by a controller, who allocated jobs, tracked courier progress by radio and GPS, and dealt with queries. Gascoigne was also provided with the technology he needed to work, as well as organisational materials such as branded bags and t-shirts, and a book of receipts. Once logged on to the online system, Gascoigne was able to pick up jobs allocated by the controller and it was expected that he would perform the jobs and then wait in an allocated area on standby; there was no ‘decline’ button available on the system so to refuse a job, Gascoigne would have to get directly in touch with the controller. It was also expected that Gascoigne would perform the work personally, although if he did refuse a job, another Addison Lee courier was allocated to pick it up instead.
The employment tribunal also questioned wording used in Gascoigne’s contract, which Wade believes was designed to put couriers off challenging their employment status. The contract also firmly states that couriers agree to being classified as independent contractors. This contract had to be signed both when the courier initially started work, and then re-signed every three months, although this could be done electronically via driver liaison.
The tribunal concluded that Gascoigne was in fact a limb b worker, and not an independent contractor. He ruled that Addison Lee must pay Gascoigne the outstanding holiday pay he is owed. If a remedy hearing is required in respect to this then the parties can apply to the Employment Tribunal.
Employment judge Wade said: “This was a working arrangement which did not lend itself to the interpretation which the armies of lawyers tried to promote. The claimant was part of a homogeneous fleet and a homogenous operation which promoted Addison Lee to customers and looked after its own. There is nothing wrong or bad about that, it simply does not fit with the employment status for which the respondent contends.”
An Addison Lee spokesperson said: “We note the tribunal’s verdict, which we will carefully review. Addison Lee is disappointed with the ruling [because] we have always had, and are committed to maintaining, a flexible and fair relationship with cycle couriers. This is a single judgement based on one pushbike courier and the circumstances of his particular relationship with Addison Lee in March 2016.”
Dr Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary at the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which supported Gascoigne’s claim, said: “As if we needed any more evidence, [this] judgement once again proves our point. The law is clear and employers in the so-called gig-economy have been choosing to unlawfully deprive their workers of rights. Yet another domino has fallen with regard to the inevitable conclusion that people in the so-called gig-economy are workers.”