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Bicycle courier has employment protections

In Dewhurst v CitySprint UK Ltd, an employment tribunal has ruled that a bicycle courier was a ‘worker’ pursuant to the Employment Rights Act 1996, irrespective of her contractual documentation which defined her as a self-employed contractor.

This ruling is the second of its kind relating to individuals in the ‘gig economy’ and their employment protections – the previous one related to drivers working for Uber. Read our case summary from November 2016 here:

The Claimant works as a bicycle courier for CitySprint Limited normally four days a week between 9.30am and 6.30pm. She logs on to CitySprint’s electronic tracking system, Citytrackker at the start of the day and speaks to a controller. She logs off when she reaches home at the end of the day. Controllers assign jobs to the courier throughout the day remaining in contact through radio and mobile phones. Each job may have gaps in between of varying times up to one hour.

CitySprint has between 50 and 60 couriers in London which it recruits by providing a ‘Confirmation of Tender to Supply Courier Services to CitySprint Ltd’ document for the courier to sign. The key terms which couriers must acknowledge set out that:

  • the courier is under no obligation to provide services and CitySprint is under no obligation to provide work;
  • the courier can send a substitute provided the substitute meets the required criteria;
  • that if the courier does not work he or she will not get paid; and
  • that there is no entitlement to holiday pay, maternity or sick pay.

Invoices are not submitted by couriers, CitySprint calculates and pays couriers for the jobs worked weekly in arrears.

The Claimant bought a claim for holiday pay for the time she spent ‘logged in’ to Citytrakker. The tribunal found that she was a ‘worker’ within the meaning of s.230(3)(b) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The tribunal examined the actual relationship and looked beyond the wording of the contractual documentation noting that while the words are ‘key pieces in the jigsaw, the bar is low before the true situation can be explored’. The tribunal noted the title of the document and the inequality of bargaining power. The couriers could only effectively swap with colleagues and not actually provide a substitute due to the criteria applied. The tribunal found that the Claimant was integrated into the business, expected to work and her work was dictated by a controller. She was not held to be working on her own account but instead on account of CitySprint. She succeeded in her claim and was awarded two days’ holiday pay.

This article is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. Knight Polson Limited trading as QualitySolicitors Knight Polson accepts no responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the contents of the above article, please do not hesitate to contact us on  or 023 8064 4822.


Posted in: Employment

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