In a “landmark” ruling, the Leeds employment tribunal ruled a group of Hermes couriers were not independent contractors, as Hermes argued, but were in fact workers who should be entitled to essential workers’ rights.
Its the latest case to be brought by the GMB union over the so-called gig economy, where the likes of Uber have argued their drivers are self-employed contractors.
The ruling affects the 65 couriers who have already brought claims, but is also likely to impact upon the wider network of 14,500 Hermes couriers who are engaged under the same contracts as the couriers.
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.
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’ 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 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.
“We urge Hermes to sit down with us and have a meaningful discussion.”
A Hermes spokesman 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 fully prepared for any outcome of this decision and its impact on 15 couriers and former couriers.
“In the meantime, it is business as usual and 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.”
Frank Field, chairman of the work and pensions select committee said: “Can even the World Cup produce a better result than this?
“It 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.”