Hermes was today accused of sacking one of its couriers for rushing to hospital to see their premature baby, telling them “parcels come first”.
An employee of the delivery giant, which works for high street brands such as Next, allegedly told a driver who couldn’t work after the early arrival of a child “that’s it, your contract is cancelled”.
The claim was heard by MPs on Tuesday during an inquiry into a review on modern work and the so-called gig economy.
Hermes said it was “very sorry” to hear of the incident and that it has undertaken an extensive review of conduct to prevent it happening again.
Anna Turley, Labour MP for Redcar, told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: “We heard a scenario where someone’s colleague had a baby born prematurely and so [the colleague about to be a father] rushed to hospital, and the boss essentially said ‘That’s it, your contract is cancelled, we’re not using you any more’.
“The words were ‘parcels come first’”.
The words were ‘parcels come first’ Anna Turley, MP for Redcar
Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove, said of Hermes’ couriers: “The evidence we’ve seen is that their life has to fit around work.
“We had a witness earlier on today who hasn’t taken holiday in ten years. [When calling in sick] he was once told on the phone that ‘the parcel is more important than he is’.”
At the hearing, Hugo Martin, Hermes’ Director of Legal Affairs, responded: “I’m very sorry to hear of this one incidence.
“That conduct is unacceptable and as per the code of conduct that is now embedded that would be a breach of the code of conduct by whoever it was.”
Hermes’ couriers are technically self-employed and choose when to work their routes, delivering as many as 90 parcels per day.
Martin added: “There are 10,500 couriers providing services on a daily basis for Hermes and do so very happily.
“We have standard operating procedures to embed the principles of our code of conduct to ensure couriers who are sick are treated with dignity and respect.”
That conduct is unacceptable Hugo Martin, Legal director, Hermes
He said that the firm’s “industry leading” code of conduct would now protect couriers who suffer family emergencies, such as babies born prematurely.
Yet he conceded that in the first instance, couriers who find themselves too ill to attend distribution centres would need to find a substitute to take their place.
He said: “Couriers have an unfettered right to substitution on a daily basis without any issue at all.
“We ask that the couriers are able to train the substitute in the use of the handheld terminals.”
Hermes has a pool of around 4,000 substitute drivers it can call upon to cover holiday or sick leave, Martin said, though only after couriers have attempted to secure cover themselves.
Hermes appeared alongside food delivery app Deliveroo and taxi app Uber.