Hermes couriers 'are entitled to workers' rights'

The i - 26 Jun 2018

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 Minimum Wage and holiday pay.

The decision was described by the GMB union as a "landmark" ruling. Tim Roache, the GMB's 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' 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.

"This judgment is... 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".

"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 prepared for any outcome of this decision. In the meantime 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. The ruling affects the 65 couriers who have already brought claims, but is likely to affect 14,500 Hermes couriers who are engaged under the same contracts.

Caitlin Morrison, The i