In Dewhurst v Citysprint UK Ltd a cycle courier has won her claim that her employment status should have been regarded as that of a worker rather than self-employed. Employment partner Chris Thompson explores the case in more detail.

This is the second case in a relatively short period of time that has cast doubt on the commercial viability of the work arrangements in ‘gig-economy businesses’. The conclusions reached mirror those found in Aslam and others v Uber BV and others concerning Uber taxi drivers who had also previously been treated as self-employed. Read our recent blog post on the Uber case.

Whilst Ms Dewhurst’s claim was only that she was owed two days of holiday pay, the bigger picture is that it opens the door for further claims from the other 3,200 self-employed couriers that Citysprint currently uses.

Ms Dewhurst was working for Citysprint each day from the point in time when she reported in as ready to work, up to the point she signed off. Whilst this claim was for holiday pay only, it might also be open for others to make claims in respect of national minimum wage where their earnings have fallen below the prescribed rates for those hours.

In finding in her favour, the Central London Employment Tribunal took into account amongst other things that there was a two-day recruitment process; that training was given on how individuals should carry out their role; that uniform and other equipment was provided; that they were paid weekly without presenting an invoice and that they were in practice expected to perform the work personally.

This was despite all couriers having signed a standard contract entitled “Confirmation of Tender to Supply Courier Services to Citysprint (UK) Ltd” which expressly set out that the individual agreed they were a ‘self-employed contractor’. The Employment Judge considered that the very title of the document aroused suspicions and that it did not reflect the reality of the working relationship in a number of ways.

With more challenges in the pipeline, this decision highlights the real risk for businesses that rely on a ‘self-employed’ workforce that liabilities may be accruing in respect of worker rights. This includes the entitlement to a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid annual leave and the right to receive pay which is at or above the national minimum wage rates. Given that from 1 April 2017 that will be £7.50 per hour for workers age 25 and over, now might be a good time for affected businesses to carry out a review of their work arrangements to help identify the level of risk and provide an opportunity to put in place provisions that will reduce the potential for employment status challenges.

For further information, please contact:

Chris Thompson, partner, employment

T: 0161 836 7935


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This blog is intended only as a synopsis of certain recent developments. If any matter referred to in this blog is sought to be relied upon, further advice should be obtained.