E.A.T. confirms Addison Lee drivers are “workers”

The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has upheld an earlier ruling by the Central London Employment Tribunal that three Addison Lee drivers are “workers” rather than self-employed contractors.

The EAT agreed with the earlier decision to reject Addison Lee’s argument that Chris Gascoigne, a cycle courier for the company was self-employed on the basis he signed a contract as an independent contractor. They referred to the importance of considering the “true nature of the relationship”. In particular, Addison Lee’s Drivers Contract was scrutinised and the EAT held that given the obligation for drivers to accept work sent to them through a hand-held computer system, they should be classed as “workers”.

The decision is the latest in the so-called ‘gig economy’ debate. Last year Uber drivers were awarded “worker” status. In June this year, the Supreme Court held that plumber, Gary Smith, who worked for Pimlico Plumbers for six years was a “worker”.

The ruling is important as “workers” have far more employment rights than those who are self-employed, including holiday pay, sick pay and the national minimum wage.

Although the decision will only immediately affect the three claimants, it potentially opens the door for Addison Lee’s 4,000 drivers and 500 couriers to bring claims. This case should also serve as a reminder to other employers of the importance of “getting it right”.

The full Judgment of the EAT is available to read at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5af56eb540f0b622d4e9808e/Addison_Lee_Ltd_v_Mr_C_Gascoigne_UKEAT_0289_17_LA.pdf.

It remains to be seen whether Addison Lee will appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal, although this case is unlikely to be the last in this ongoing debate. Following calls for clarity on employment status and recommendations from the Taylor Review, the government has this week announced plans to introduced legislation which aims to improve the rights of workers. Under the proposed new legislation, “workers” will be entitled to receive a statement of rights on their first day, for example setting out their eligibility for sick leave and pay.

If you have any concerns about your rights or the right of your staff, please contact our Employment Team for advice.