The London Central Employment Tribunal has ruled that a bicycle courier for logistics organisation CitySprint is a worker, and is therefore entitled to benefits such as holiday pay.
In the case of Dewhurst v CitySprint UK, Dewhurst contended that she was employed as a worker rather than an independent contractor, and was therefore entitled to worker rights, such as holiday pay. Dewhurst, who has been accepting work from CitySprint UK for the past two years, was seeking payment for two days’ holiday she had taken.
Dewhurst’s claim was supported by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and was heard at the London Central Employment Tribunal in November 2016.
The Employment Tribunal’s decision, which was released on Friday 6 January 2017, found that the claimant Dewhurst was a worker during the hours that she provided services for CitySprint, and that CitySprint had unlawfully failed to pay her for two days’ holiday.
Employment judge Wade found that CitySprint regulated the amount of work available to couriers, and from the time that Dewhurst signed on to the courier circuit in the morning until she signed off at night, she was not and could not meaningfully provide services to anyone else.
Jon Katona, vice president at IWGB, said: “This is a huge victory for couriers, and workers everywhere who have been asked to sign their rights away for a job. And it’s a warning to other [organisations] that masquerading as a non-employer, or as a go-between for independent businessmen is over.”
Dewhurst added: “The Tribunal has shown CitySprint’s operation to be wilfully exploitative, and fuelled by an absurd set of incentives. The reality of a courier’s working life has been exposed; it’s a tough, physically and mentally demanding job, in a low-pay sector, we are not high-flying entrepreneurial executives. CitySprint and its rivals have been using the excuse that their couriers are entrepreneurs for many years, but this was found to be an artificial construction, and that couriers are in a subordinate position.”
A spokesperson at CitySprint said: “We are disappointed with [the] ruling. It is important to remember that this applies to a single individual and was not a test case.
“We enjoy a good relationship with our fleet, many of whom have worked with us for some time, and [we] have always strived to help them maximise their earnings. Evidence presented at the tribunal confirmed that the vast majority of our couriers enjoy the freedom and flexibility of their current role. As was clearly highlighted in this case, CitySprint is a good [organisation] that pays its couriers some of the best rates in the industry.
“This case has demonstrated that there is still widespread confusion regarding this area of law, which is why we are calling on the government to provide better support and help for businesses across the UK who could be similarly affected.”