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Couriers hail landmark win for workers' rights

Ruling says Hermes drivers are workers and entitled to holiday pay

TRADE UNIONISTS hailed a “landmark” legal victory today against bogus self-employment after couriers for gig economy employer Hermes were deemed legally to be workers.

An employment tribunal in Leeds ruled that a group of 15 Hermes couriers were workers and were therefore entitled to receive the national minimum wage and holiday pay.

Employment judge Sarah-Jane Davies found that Hermes couriers were “appointed on terms determined by Hermes, essentially without negotiation.”

She said Hermes set the rate of pay, prepared invoices and made payments with “limited and exceptional” negotiation, adding: “The pay arrangements here have all the hallmarks of dependent worker status rather than independent business undertakings.”

Ms Davies concluded that “the terms of the contract and the way in which the parties operate in practice point overwhelmingly to the fact” that Hermes couriers were workers.

There will now be a further hearing to determine the holiday pay, minimum wage and any unlawful deductions to which Hermes couriers are entitled.

GMB said 68 members had presented claim forms to the tribunal so far, but added that today’s victory could affect 14,500 other Hermes couriers engaged on the same contractual terms.

The union's general secretary Tim Roache 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 and the 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.”

Mr Roache said the judgement was “another nail in the coffin of the exploitative bogus self-employment model, which is increasingly rife across the UK.”

Shadow minister for labour Laura Pidcock welcomed the ruling. “Today’s judgement is fantastic news for workers and potentially thousands of Hermes couriers,” she said.

“Businesses that seek to exploit workers by denying the national living wage and holiday pay, under the pretences of the so-called ‘gig economy,’ must be held to account for their shameful actions.

“Exploitative business models that put pressure on employees by denying workers their basic rights are totally unjust.

“The next Labour government will put an end to bogus self-employment and guarantee all workers their full rights from day one.”

Work and pensions select committee chairman Frank Field said the ruling “ranks among the most substantial judicial interventions ever to support vulnerable workers in this country.”

He added that the decision was “a mega knockback to those companies still using old means of exploiting vulnerable workers.”

In a statement, Hermes said it was “likely to appeal [the ruling] given that it goes against previous decisions, our understanding of the witness evidence and what we believe the law to be.”

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