Business

Cycle courier wins holiday pay battle

Cyclist Image copyright Reuters

An employment tribunal has ruled that a self-employed courier for the firm Excel was actually "a worker".

Cycle courier Andrew Boxer argued he was entitled to one week of holiday pay based on his work for Excel.

The tribunal said his claim was "well-founded" and that the firm "unlawfully failed to pay the claimant".

The ruling adds more legal weight to claims that some firms in the so-called gig economy are engaged in "bogus self-employment".

Mr Boxer launched his claim for £321.16 after he took a week's holiday in March last year for which he was not paid.

He had started working for Excel in September 2013. He signed contracts which referred to him as a "contractor" and "sub-contractor". But the tribunal concluded that his contract did not reflect the reality of his working situation.

He argued that while at the firm, he was a "worker" as defined by the Employment Rights Act. Under the act, workers are entitled to basic rights including holiday pay and the national minimum wage. His claim was backed by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB).

Under review

The tribunal heard that Mr Boxer worked approximately nine hours a day for five days a week. He had no opportunity to negotiate his pay rate or to provide someone else to do work on his behalf.

According to the ruling, Mr Boxer was asked by the judge if had ever queried any of the clauses in his contract. He said: "I had no choice, it would not have made any difference, they would have laughed at me if I had challenged a particular clause."

Excel did not produce witness evidence or attend the tribunal hearing. The firm initially offered to pay the claim for holiday pay "without acceptance of the validity of the claimant's claim". That was rejected by Mr Boxer.

IWGB General Secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee said the tribunal's judgement was "yet further evidence of what we have known to be true all along: courier companies are unlawfully depriving their workers of rights.

"As the tribunal dominoes continue to fall we would recommend that courier companies which are not yet subject to litigation by the IWGB urgently get their act together."

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In January, an employment tribunal found that a courier with CitySprint should also be classed as a worker rather than self-employed and that she should be entitled to basic rights including holiday and the National Living Wage.

The taxi-hailing firm Uber lost a similar case last year and has launched an appeal.

The former adviser to Tony Blair, Matthew Taylor, has been asked by the government to review modern working practices.

That has raised the prospect of whether the self-employed could be given more rights in return for paying higher National Insurance contributions.

Last week, amid a public outcry, Chancellor Philip Hammond was forced to scrap plans to raise National Insurance contributions for self-employed people, which he had outlined in the recent Budget.

He had previously cited evidence that the growth of self-employment could undermine the tax base by between £3.5bn and £5bn a year by 2020.

Critics say many firms in the gig economy should also contribute more, as they often pay lower levels of National Insurance and no pension contributions.

Follow John on twitter: @johnmoylanbbc

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