Hot on the heels of Uber, we report on an employment tribunal decision going against CitySprint, and a further nail in the coffin for the gig economy.
This claim was brought by Maggie Dewhurst. As a CitySprint bicycle courier she tended to work 4 days a week between 9.30 and 6.00, running a variety of jobs during the day, with gaps in between ranging from a few minutes to an hour. There was an electronic tracking system provided by CitySprint, called Citytrakker which monitored her whereabouts throughout the day and enabled the company to give her instructions via mobile phone and radio as to where to go.
Maggie Dewhurst’s contract was entitled “Confirmation of Tender to Supply Courier Services to CitySprint Limited”. It contained an electronic tick box system whereby the courier s would confirm that they were able to substitute alternative cyclists for themselves, that they were not employees, and that they would not be entitled to any holiday.
Payment was made through a so-called self-billing system, but in reality CitySprint calculated and made the payments to their couriers automatically, and without any reference to them.
Maggie Dewhurst’s claim was for paid annual leave entitlement. Worker status is required for individuals to be entitled to this. Previous case law indicates that worker status is akin to employment status, and somewhere on the spectrum between purely self-employed and fully employed.
Relying on previous cases, the Employment Tribunal looked behind the contractual documentation at what was really happening on the ground in this case.
They looked at the title of the contract (Confirmation of tender to supply etc.) and said that this in itself was enough to arouse suspicion, and looked like the work of “an army of lawyers”.
In terms of bargaining power, said the Tribunal, the tick box exercise in the contract indicated that this was purely in favour of CitySprint.
Another test of worker status is integration with the workforce, and the relationship indicated a high level of integration in this case, because directions were given throughout the day, and couriers were required to wear uniforms and to smile.
The substitution clause, on examination by the Tribunal, was found to be so prescriptive that it meant that only a CitySprint colleague could be a substitute. Again, this amounted to nothing more than a lawyer’s trick that the Tribunal looked behind.
The Tribunal therefore found that Maggie Dewhurst was indeed a worker and was entitled to paid annual leave.
Worker status also means individuals are entitled to minimum wages and maximum working hours. Furthermore, they have rights under the new auto-enrolment pension legislation.
At this stage, the matter has only been to the Employment Tribunal. It may well be appealed to the EAT, so watch this space.