The latest Gig Economy case to be tested in court starts today , (Monday 30th April) Courier firm Hermes is facing action from GMB Union members.
The legal action, which follows GMB’s landmark success against Uber, is on behalf of eight Hermes couriers who believe they are being denied basic workers’ rights by being forced to declare as self-employed.
Hermes has become a household name, providing courier services for firms like Next, ASOS, John Lewis, Topshop and River Island.
If the GMB members’ case is successful, the company could be forced to change the way it treats all of its drivers.
The claimants are currently described as ‘Lifestyle couriers’, where Hermes treat them as self employed, which means drivers aren’t entitled to holiday pay to the national living wage.
This is the latest in a string of cases brought by GMB on behalf of members to tackle bogus self-employment and gig economy exploitation.
In October 2016, GMB won a ground-breaking victory against Uber where a similar Employment Tribunal ruled that Uber drivers should have ‘worker’ status and the rights that go with it. That landmark case could have major implications for more than 30,000 drivers across England and Wales, but in an attempt to avoid treating rivers as workers, Uber is currently appealing he decision.
Here’s Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary
“GMB’s courier members do a tough job – working long hours with unrealistic targets. They make a fortune for companies like Hermes, the least they should be able to expect in return is the minimum wage and their hard fought rights at work.
“Companies like Hermes and Uber hide behind terms like ‘flexibility’ to wriggle out of treating the people who make them their money with the respect they deserve.
“Guaranteed hours, holiday pay, sick pay, pension contributions are not privileges companies can dish out when they fancy. They are the legal right of all UK workers, and that’s what we’re asking the courts to rule on.”
Webb speaks – FT listens
The concerns for those in marginal employment are echoed in an FT Article over the weekend; Fears over workers ‘nudged into self-employment’. HMRC and tPR are being urged by Steve Webb and others to review “bogus self employment”.
Webb told the FT there was a “huge incentive” for companies to favour workers who are self-employed rather than employed, but this came at a cost to workers who miss out on pension rights, sick pay and a range of other employment protections.
“While making sure the genuinely self-employed have pensions is a big challenge, part of the answer must be to make sure that those who are to all intents and purposes employees are classified as such and benefit from a workplace pension. HMRC needs to be investigating ‘bogus’ self-employment vigorously in the interests of the taxpayer and in the interests of the potentially involuntary self-employed person.”
Marginalise the vulnerable at your peril!
It’s not just self-employment that threatens the poor with benefit marginalisation, employment can do the same. Following the publication of Hyman Robertson’s study of net pay DC pensions, which found hundreds of thousands of those marginally auto-enrolled were getting neither tax-relief or tax incentives, the Daily Mail is now championing the rights of all to the Government Pension Incentive.
Ros Altmann has written moving on this. I understand further pieces are planned and I have contributed to them. You can read Ros’ piece in “This is Money” here.
A coalition in protest
Whether it be from the left of centre GMB, liberal knight Steve Webb, or Tory Peer Baroness Altmann, the message is the same. Pension rights are for everyone and we cannot allow those on low wages to be driven out of pensions and the incentives due them.
Government is standing by and watching, denying there is a problem. The denial that a problem exists is not a good political position, as Amber Rudd is now finding out.
It is time that bogus self-employment and the denial of savings incentives to the low paid pension saver were treated as one issue; it’s an issue for the privileged – and it’s about the abuse of privilege.
For the first time ever we have a minister of Pensions and Social Inclusion, what’s he doing for those excluded from pensions in these ways?