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"Gig economy" courier should be classed as worker, Judge rules

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A CitySprint bicycle courier should be classed as a worker, rather than self-employed, an employment tribunal has ruled.

The judgement further liberates workers of the “gig economy”, a sector which claims to take on self-employed staff but treats them like employees for the purpose of the job.

The tribunal ruled that Maggie Dewhurst, who has worked at CitySprint for the past two years, is entitled to basic employment rights such as holiday pay, sick pay, and the National Living Wage (NLW).

It heard that during her time at the courier service company, she had been classed as an independent contractor, despite her role being more like that of an employee.

“We spend all day being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it. We’re under their control,” Ms Dewhurst told the tribunal.

Upon making the verdict, Judge Joanna Wade called CitySprint’s contractual arrangements “contorted”, “indecipherable”, and “window dressing”.

She added: “It is CitySprint which has the power to regulate the amount of work available, and it keeps its couriers busy by limiting the size of the fleet.

“This gets to the heart of the inequality of bargaining power present in this relationship, and shows that this is not a commercial venture between two corporate entities, as claimed by CitySprint.”

A CitySprint spokesperson said: “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.”

Jon Katona, vice president of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, said: “This is a huge victory for couriers, and workers everywhere who have been asked to sign their rights away for a job.

“It’s a warning to other companies that masquerading as a non-employer, or as a go-between for independent businessmen is over. You’re going to have to give your workforce the rights and protections owed to them according to the true working relationship, or we will come after you.”

Last year, a test case brought forward by “self-employed” drivers against taxi giant Uber ruled in favour of the workers, granting them basic employment rights.