Hermes couriers should be treated as workers instead of independent contractors, according to an employment tribunal ruling.

A group of 65 Hermes couriers took the delivery service to court. This was based on the grounds that they had been denied basic workers’ rights.

In an important ruling, the Leeds Employment Tribunal found that the group were not independent contractors, as Hermes argued. Instead, they found them to be workers, who are entitled to essential workers’ rights. These include the right to be paid minimum wage, receive paid holiday and reclaim unlawful deductions from their wages.

Thousands affected

GMB – the union for “gig workers” helped to bring the claim. They said the ruling is likely to impact upon almost all of the wider network of 14,500 Hermes couriers who are engaged under the same contract as the 65 couriers.

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Because of this there will now be a further hearing. This will calculate the holiday pay, national minimum wage and any unlawful deductions due back that the couriers should receive.

Bogus self-employment model

“This is yet another ruling that shows the gig economy for what it is – old fashioned exploitation under a shiny new façade,” Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, said. “Bosses can’t just pick and choose which laws to obey. Workers’ rights were hard won". Furthermore, he added that"GMB isn’t about to sit back and let them be eroded or removed by the latest loophole employers have come up with to make a few extra quid.”

He added: “Not only will this judgement directly affect more than 14,000 Hermes couriers across the country, it’s another nail in the coffin of the exploitative bogus self-employment model which is increasingly rife across the UK.”

Appeal likely

Roache has urged Hermes to sit down with the union and have a meaningful discussion. However, it is likely the delivery company will appeal the decision.

“We will carefully review the tribunal’s decision. But we are likely to appeal it given that it goes against previous decisions, our understanding of the witness evidence and what we believe the law to be,” a Hermes spokesman said.

This latest win comes swiftly on the back of two similar victories against Deliveroo and Pimlico Plumbers, where judges have said that staff should be given the same legal classification as workers.

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