Full employment has been won by couriers carrying emergency blood supplies for the NHS of the U.K. This perhaps the first time that such a recognition has been given to a constituent of what is defined as the gig economy.
There were no employment rights beyond basic health and safety and anti-discrimination rules for all the cyclists, motorcyclists and van drivers who carried blood for pathology services as they were self-employed contractors, The Doctors Laboratory (TDL) had claimed.
Most of the drivers and riders for companies like Deliveroo, Uber, Hermes and DPD, the members of the typical delivery industry, are generally classed as self-employed contractors and TDL is a member of such an industry.
Couriers need to classified as workers, TDL has conceded last year. this meant that the couriers were entitled to employment rights including holiday pay and the national minimum wage according to this formal employment classification. Almost £1m in holiday back-pay for 50 TDL workers is being demanded for by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), a employee union for the gig economy.
However, TDL has now conceded that some of its couriers were employees – in an out of court settlement. This meant that such couriers would have complete protected status and would be eligible for challenging unfair dismissal, sick leave and maternity pay.
Ronnie De Andrade, one of the couriers, who has worked for TDL since 2011, said: “My main concern is job security. When you’re self-employed you can go in one day and you don’t know if you will work again.” He said he now felt better protected, having endured several accidents while working over the last seven years without receiving any sick pay. That will now change.
A spokesperson for TDL said: “We are pleased to have achieved a satisfactory settlement with the individuals concerned and to date have received no further claims.”
Jason Moyer-Lee, the general secretary of the IWGB, which backed legal action against TDL on behalf of the couriers, said: “Following this agreement it will be very difficult for the company to deny couriers employee status if they want it.”
Many of the other courier firms offer greater flexibility in agreements with drivers and riders compared to TDL and therefore the agreement would not have significant implications for such other courier firms, Moyer-Lee said.
But he said: “It goes to show that companies are simply choosing to unlawfully deprive people of their rights and it’s only when they are called out on it that things change.”
In order to make it easier to identify the status of employment for both employers and the people working for them, consultation on possible changes is being made by the it, the government said on Tuesday. A review commissioned by Downing Street- commission and conducted by Mathew Taylor was the basis of the proposals. The review was aimed at enhancing the condition of the gig economy workers in new ways.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)