An employment tribunal has found that a group of 65 Hermes couriers are workers, not self-employed, in a “landmark” ruling, the GMB union said on Monday.
The GMB union said it was its latest legal triumph against “bogus” self-employment in the so-called gig economy.
The Leeds tribunal found that a group of Hermes couriers were workers and were entitled to employment rights and to receive the national minimum wage and holiday pay.
The ruling directly affects the 65 couriers who have already brought claims, but is likely to impact upon the wider network of 14,500 Hermes couriers who are engaged under the same contracts, said the GMB.
Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, said: “This is yet another ruling that shows the gig economy for what it is, old-fashioned exploitation under a shiny new facade.
“Bosses can’t just pick and choose which laws to obey.
“Workers’ right were hard won, and the GMB isn’t about to sit back and let them be eroded or removed by the latest loophole employers have come up with to make a few extra quid.
A Hermes spokesman said: “We will carefully review the tribunal’s decision, but we are likely to appeal it given that it goes against previous decisions, our understanding of the witness evidence and what we believe the law to be.
Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee said: “Can even the World Cup produce a better result than this?
“It ranks among the most substantial judicial interventions ever to support vulnerable workers in this country.
“The decision is a mega knockback to those companies still using old means of exploiting vulnerable workers.”
The IPSE - the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed - said Monday that the “uncertainty about who is and who isn’t genuinely self-employed must stop”.
IPSE’s Director of Policy Simon McVicker said: “It is unacceptable that policymakers are relying on costly, time-consuming court cases as the first port of call in determining employment status.
“IPSE is calling on the government to write into law a positive definition of self-employment.
“This would provide peace of mind to the self-employed and companies looking to engage them.”
The ruling comes soon after a heating engineer won his claim against Pimlico Plumbers at the supreme court, establishing that he was a worker and not self-employed.
Earlier this month, the Independent Of Great Britain were given the go-ahead for a high court challenge over the employment rights of Deliveroo riders, in another step towards securing employment rights for gig economy workers.