Coronavirus Has Left Casual Workers Most Exposed. Now The Government Could Get Sued

Independent Workers Union of Great Britain says couriers, cleaners and delivery drivers not getting PPE or Covid-19 tests.

Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now.

The government could face legal action amid claims gig economy workers are being failed by gaps in health and safety law during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is preparing to mount a legal challenge on behalf of its members, saying it is “crucial” those such as couriers, cleaners and delivery drivers are protected from the virus.

It accuses the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of neglecting its health and safety duty of care by failing to transpose health and safety directives from EU law into UK law.

It says many gig workers – people who are not on companies’ staff and are often low-paid casual workers – are also not being provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) or receive testing.

The union said this makes its members more susceptible to the virus, which has killed more than 32,000 people in the UK.

The IWGB has sent a letter-before-action to the DWP, threatening legal action if it does not extend EU laws protecting staff members to non-staff workers.

Jason Moyer-Lee, IWGB general secretary, said: “As the government looks to ease the lockdown in the midst of the pandemic, health and safety at work has never been more important.

“It is crucial that exploitative employers like Uber know they must protect the health and safety of their workers and that the government brings the criminal prosecutions necessary to enforce this law.

“The UK is already compelled by EU law to extend health and safety protections to workers – it’s a shame the government would rather litigate than comply.”

Hanna-Beth Scaife, a courier for Stuart, also provided a statement.

She said: “I suffer with Fibromyalgia and CFS (ME) which puts me at high-risk from Covid-19, yet I’m one of thousands of couriers denied proper PPE at work. Just because we’re self employed doesn’t mean we’re at any less of a risk so why does PPE seem to be an afterthought for us?

“Ignoring our health and safety means ignoring that of the millions of people we deliver to, many of them self-isolating with Covid-19 symptoms or shielding at home because they’re high-risk. Protecting couriers would help protect the whole country.”

It is the second legal challenge threat IWGB has made in recent days.

Last week, the IWGB commenced action against the government in a separate case, filing a High Court challenge over what the union said was a failure to provide satisfactory income and sickness protection to millions of low-paid and self-employed workers.

Figures last year estimated there were around 4.7m gig economy workers in the UK.

HuffPost UK has contacted the government for comment.


What's Hot