A cycle courier has become the latest successful member of the gig economy to secure "worker" status. Margaret Dewhurst, who was a specialist medical cycle courier for CitySprint, has been recognised as a "worker" with a right to receive holiday pay despite signing up to terms and conditions as a self-employed contractor who could "provide a substitute to perform any particular Job". The Employment Tribunal was asked by her to rule on the true status of the agreement between her and CitySprint. It found that she was obliged to personally work for CitySprint and that she:
had no discretion in determining the manner in which she performed her work (e.g. she had discretion to determine her cycle routes but was otherwise fully trained to meet particular requirements);
was incentivised to wear branded goods in a way that was akin to requiring uniform;
could not, in practice, get somebody to substitute for her in the event that she could not carry out a job (e.g. somebody else could not use the hospital ID required to make deliveries and it would have been a breach of CitySprint's contract as a supplier to allow Ms Dewhurst to provide a substitute); and
had no ability to improve her business opportunities by her own endeavours (e.g. work was allocated and defined by controllers in a defined working pattern).
On these grounds the Tribunal held that Ms Dewhurst was a worker, and not an independent contractor. In summarising the relationship between Ms Dewhurst and CitySprint the judge commented that the company's recruitment procedure and working patterns were not consistent with its contract. The case highlights the need for companies to ensure that all their HR documentation accurately reflects the actual working relationship with each member of its workforce.
After last year's Uber decision, this judgment, together with more similar Employment Tribunal cases to come, shows that the status of people working within the gig economy needs to be held at the forefront of individuals' minds when creating and developing business models. Please contact James Warren for more information.