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The gig is up... or is it?

With increased congestion and roadworks on every corner, bicycles are coming in to their own. Commuters are donning Lycra and all sorts of businesses, including fast food and courier companies, are now making deliveries on two wheels in order to offer their customers a more efficient service.

The so-called ‘gig economy’ has taken off in the UK during the last 12 months or so both in and outside of London, and companies are taking full advantage. Employers are increasingly employing individuals on a job-by-job or ‘gig basis’ resulting in apparent self-employed status but in recent months, this structure has begun to fray at the seams.

Some of you may recall that Uber lost a Preliminary Hearing in October 2016 when the Tribunal found that their drivers were in fact workers and therefore entitled to the rights associated with that status. The Tribunal were quite damning of the worldwide ‘transportation network’ and their operations and structure here in the UK. But Uber are not alone, in light of a second decision on 6 January 2017 against City Sprint, it seems that the Tribunal are standing firm in their thoughts.

Ms. Dewhurst is a bicycle courier who worked for City Sprint on a self-employed basis. She claimed that she was not genuinely self-employed because she could not ‘pick and choose’ the work that she accepted. She went on to argue that City Sprint controlled what she did and when and how she did it. The Tribunal ruled in Ms Dewhurst’s favour meaning that she is entitled to basic rights such as holiday pay and minimum wage and whilst this is not binding on other claims, there are certainly more to come.

Uber are appealing the decision against them, and City Sprint have called on the government to clarify the terms and conditions of self-employment in light of this and the other recent rulings stating that there was still widespread confusion regarding this area of law. Whilst appreciating that it is my job to decipher the nuances of the law, I believe that what constitutes a self-employed status is and always has been quite clear. Perhaps it is not plain to every man on the street, but it certainly should be to those responsible for staff structuring and hiring within organisations as big as those under scrutiny. It has always been accepted as a metric that the Tribunals and HMRC will go beyond the contract to establish the actual relationship if this is called in to question, and I think this is an appropriate safeguard to guard against ‘sham contracts’.

Surely what has happened here is that the employers have simply been called in to question and failed (subject to appeal) to meet the necessary standard. If these individuals are genuinely self-employed, and two tribunals have found otherwise, something is amiss whether that be contracts, procedures or general management.

If you aren’t sure if your employment contracts make any self-employment statuses clear, get in touch with me. It is better to ensure your contracts and procedures are clear from the outset to help avoid future problems.

Megan James
Posts: 2
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Date: 17/08/17
Dana Ewans
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Karina James-Wiltshire
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