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January 31, 2017

Further 'gig economy' uncertainty following CitySprint case

The recent case of Dewhurst v CitySprint UK Ltd provides a further example of employment tribunals being prepared to find that so-called 'gig economy' workers can claim employment rights. 

Workers are entitled to basic employment rights such as holiday pay, sick pay and the national living wage. 'Gig economy' workers are workers employed by a company on a job-by-job basis. Historically, these workers have been classified as self-employed and therefore not enitled to any employment rights. CitySprint, along with the Uber and Deliveroo decisions, is one of a number of cases indicating a trend that may be moving away from the 'gig economy'. 

In the CitySprint case, a bicycle courier was described in her employment contract as being a "self-employed contractor". However, the employment tribunal deemed the courier to be a worker, based on the reality of the day-to-day situation. This worker status was achieved regardless of the fact that in theory, CitySprint was not obliged to provide work and the courier was under no obligation to accept it. The courier could, on paper, send a substitute and did not get paid if she did not work. 

The decision boiled down to the fact that Ms Dewhurst was expected to work when she said she would; she was given directions while working; she was instructed to smile and wear a uniform; and she was told when she would be paid and how much in accordance to CitySprint's calculations. In this case the tribunal deemed that, in reality, she was not working for herself but on behalf of CitySprint.

The decision is a further reminder to employers that the tribunal may depart from the wording of employment contracts and look at the reality of the situation if there is a contradiction. The outcome of the case demonstrates that there is still widespread confusion regarding employment status. It's likely that we have not yet seen the end of these types of cases. 

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