Hermes facing legal challenge from its self-employed workers

Move is being led by GMB union on behalf of couriers who believe delivery company wrongly classes them as self-employed

Hermes, the courier company that delivers parcels for John Lewis and Next, is facing a legal claim from workers who believe they are wrongly classed as self-employed, according to the Labour MP Frank Field.

Speaking on Thursday, he said the move is being orchestrated by the GMB union. It follows a Guardian investigation that found Hermes was paying some of its couriers at levels equivalent to below the “national living wage”.

The possible legal proceedings come after a similar claim was brought successfully against app-based taxi company Uber. Employment judges ruled that self-employed drivers should be classed as workers and therefore have the right to the national living wage, paid holiday and sick pay.

Last October, HM Revenue and Customs said it was investigating whether Hermes was compliant with its rules regarding self-employment and said it would act where companies were found to have misclassified individuals as self-employed.

Hermes pays couriers fees as low as 45p per parcel and expects them to meet their own car and petrol costs from those payments. The company has previously said it is “confident in the legality of our self-employed courier model”.

Field, the chairman of the House of Commons work and pensions select committee, said he has supplied GMB and its lawyers with the details of 20 Hermes couriers who came forward to complain about working terms and conditions after the Guardian’s investigation.

The case is understood to be at an early stage and a claim has yet to be formally lodged with the tribunal. Hermes said it was not aware of any legal proceedings issued against it.

“However, we will contest any challenge to our self-employed courier model on the same grounds that we have successfully resolved other claims,” a spokeswoman said.

Field said: “A bright light is now being shone on the vulnerable underbelly of Britain’s labour market. We are beginning to see how a small army of people going out to work every day in the gig economy do so for poverty wages, facing chronic anxiety and insecurity, and without the basic protections which many of us take for granted.

“The aim of this tribunal will not only be to gain justice for drivers working with Hermes, but also to set off a domino effect in the wider gig economy, so that justice can likewise be gained for the many tens of thousands of people working in that industry.”


Robert Booth

The GuardianTramp

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