The Employment Tribunal (ET) has ruled that couriers working for delivery organisation Hermes are workers rather than independent contractors, which entitles them to employment rights such as the national minimum wage and holiday pay.
The case, which was heard by the Leeds Employment Tribunal in April and May 2018, was brought by trade union GMB on behalf of 65 couriers, although the decision is predicted to impact on Hermes’ wider network of 14,500 couriers who are engaged under the same contract.
The ET found that couriers at Hermes are classified as workers rather than independent, self-employed contractors. This means that the couriers are therefore entitled to employment rights that are not available to independent contractors. This includes the right to be paid the national minimum wage and holiday pay, as well as the right to reclaim unlawful deductions from wages.
Couriers at Hermes sign up to work for the organisation as round holders, which has the expectation that they must work six days a week. The ET found that this contrasts with the flexibility that is typical of being an independent contractor. Furthermore, parcels must be delivered within selected time slots, with an attempted delivery on the day each parcel is received, courier performance is tracked and couriers are subject to disciplinary action if their performance does not meet Hermes’ standards. Hermes dictates couriers’ payment terms, generates invoices for couriers, and decides how couriers are paid, with pay partly determined by performance.
There will be a further ET hearing to calculate the holiday pay, national minimum wage and any unlawful deductions that couriers should receive.
Michael Newman, partner in the employment team at Leigh Day, who represented the couriers, said: “We are delighted that the Employment Tribunal has found in favour of our clients. This judgement acknowledges that Hermes couriers, as the customer-fronting ‘face of Hermes’, play an integral part in the success of the [organisation]. The judgement confirms that they work for Hermes as part of Hermes’ business.
“Some of the couriers have not been paid the national minimum wage and often find it difficult to take holiday. This judgement goes some way to addressing those issues; it ensures that they guaranteed the basic working rights of national minimum wage and paid annual leave. It is yet another example of an employer who has incorrectly classified their workers as self-employed independent contractors and denied them the rights to which they are entitled.”
Tim Roache, general secretary at GMB, added: “This is yet another ruling that shows the gig economy for what it is; old-fashioned exploitation under a shiny new façade. Bosses can’t just pick and choose which laws to obey. Workers’ [rights] 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. We urge Hermes to sit down with us and have a meaningful discussion.”
Hermes is unavailable for comment at the time of publication.