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Courier establishes ‘worker’ status

In Dewhurst v CitySprint UK Ltd, the London Central Employment Tribunal held that a bicycle courier was a ‘worker’ rather than a self-employed contractor under the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Ms Dewhurst had been working for the business as a cycle courier in London. She usually worked four days per week from 9.30am to 6.30pm. Gaps between jobs could range from 10 minutes to an hour. She was logged in to the company’s tracking system whilst working and at the end of each day she logged-off and went home.

The employer recruited Ms Dewhurst under a document entitled ‘Confirmation of Tender to Supply Courier Services to Citysprint Ltd’, which treated the individual as a self-employed contractor. Ms Dewhurst was required to read and acknowledge the key stipulations of the document, which included terms making it clear that CitySprint were under no obligation to provide work and that the courier is under no obligation to provide services. It was also stipulated that if the courier does not work they do not get paid and that they can also send a substitute to work in their place. The document stipulated that the courier is not entitled to maternity pay, sick pay or holiday pay and if they did not work they would not get paid.

The Tribunal held that the individual was a worker and was in fact not working for herself but on CitySprint’s behalf. The tribunal relied upon the Supreme Court’s decision in Autoclenz Ltd v Belcher & others, which allowed a tribunal to depart from the wording of a contractual document and look at the reality of the situation if there was contradiction. The Tribunal also considered the substitution clause and found too prescriptive, as in effect it allowed no more than Ms Dewhurst to swap jobs with other CitySprint colleagues. The Tribunal, having considered all of the evidence, found that the reality of Ms Dewhurst’s working conditions made it clear that she was integrated into CitySprint’s business.

Although this case is not an Employment Appeal Tribunal decision, and therefore not binding on other employment tribunals, it is another example of an employment tribunal concluding that a worker in the ‘gig economy’ can claim employment protections following on from the Uber ruling last year.