An Employment Tribunal in Leeds handed down a landmark decision last week when it deemed a group of 65 Hermes couriers to be workers, as opposed to self-employed contractors, as argued by Hermes.

Traditionally, self-employed individuals are not afforded the same employment rights as employees or workers and their rights are governed by the terms and contract that they enter into with the engaging party. However, the decision that the couriers are workers grants them entitlement to basic worker’s rights such as paid holiday, the national minimum wage and protection against unlawful discrimination.

This is the latest case to create implications for today’s so called “gig-economy”, in which many people are undertaking short-term contracts or freelance “gigs”, opposed to securing permanent jobs.

The ruling follows the recent decision handed down by the Supreme Court in the case of Pimlico Plumbers, in which a self-employed individual was found to be a worker when he brought a claim for unfair dismissal, following Pimlico Plumbers’ refusal to cut down his working hours after he suffered from a heart attack.

Similar “monumental” judgments have also been passed by Employment Tribunals against companies such as Addison Lee and Uber recently, where individuals who would traditionally have been classed as self-employed contractors have found to be workers and therefore afforded workers’ rights such as paid rest breaks.

The GMB union, which supported the Hermes couriers, explained that the ruling will have a direct impact on a number of couriers who have already brought a claim against the company. In a wider context, it is expected that the decision will also have implications for the 14,500 Hermes couriers currently operating across the UK.

It is also expected that the decision will add to the increasing pressure being placed on the government to align employment status laws and update current employment law to reflect “new ways of working”.

A spokesperson for Hermes advised that the company will carefully consider the Tribunal’s decision. However, it is “likely” that the company will appeal the Tribunal’s decision.

Farleys Employment Law & HR team can provide assistance concerning staffing structures, employment status and the implications of the above ruling in the “gig” economy.

Contact the Employment team on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry online.