• International Workplace
  • 12 July 2018

Another landmark win in Hermes workers’ rights case

In an important ruling, which will potentially affect thousands of Hermes couriers, Leeds Employment Tribunal has ruled a group of Hermes couriers were not independent contractors, as Hermes argued, but are in fact workers who are entitled to essential workers’ rights.

These include the right to be paid the National Minimum Wage, receive paid holiday and reclaim unlawful deductions from their wages.

There will now be a further hearing in the Employment Tribunal to calculate the holiday pay, National Minimum Wage and any unlawful deductions due back that the couriers should receive.

GMB has also announced legal action against three Amazon delivery companies on the charge of bogus self-employment.

Tim Roache, GMB 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’ right 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 judgment 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.”

Commenting on the likely impact on other employers, Pam Loch, Managing Director of Loch Associates Group and Managing Partner of Loch Employment Law, said:

“We were not shocked to hear that the decision went against [Hermes], and their couriers are classed as ‘workers’ and not ‘self-employed’. The facts in this case are not dissimilar from previous cases, with parallels to the Pimlico Plumbers case earlier this month. 

“These decisions could have a significant impact on businesses who use self-employed contractors and we’re advising employers to review their contracts with staff to ensure they adequately reflect the realities of the role. Regardless of contractual status, an Employment Tribunal will look at the reality of the role, and the control the employer has over a ‘self-employed’ contractor to determine whether they are in fact a worker. 

“If employers are wrongly engaging their staff on a self-employed basis, any claims brought against them in future have the potential to seriously affect the financial performance of the business, with the risk of significant back payments of entitlements such as holiday. In another similar case, 13 years’ worth of holiday pay was awarded to an individual worth £27,000. This risk can be minimised by having the correct contractual arrangements in place when you engage staff and getting advice from an employment lawyer on how to manage staff will ensure your business is protected.”

Read more from Pam on the gig economy here.