First Uber, now CitySprint. An Employment Tribunal has again ruled that a ‘gig’ economy courier was not self-employed. Instead, this cycle courier was a worker and entitled to workers’ benefits from CitySprint including minimum wage, holiday and sick pay. Workers also have some statutory protections including protection from discrimination and whistleblower retaliation.

Two important points to note for employers here:

1.Don’t rely solely on your contracts! The CitySprint contract held the courier out to be an independent freelancer, a self-employed contractor. This case is an important reminder that the wording of the contract is just part of the equation. Employment Tribunals and HMRC will look behind the contract to assess how the relationship works in practice and what its legal nature is. In this case, the Employment Judge commented that the CitySprint contract’s attempt to define the legal relationship as one of self-employment was “contorted, indecipherable and window-dressing”.

2.Each case rests on its own merits. The rulings in the Uber case and this CitySprint case apply only to the workers who brought the claims. They don’t immediately apply to all of the companies’ other workers/contractors. Barring HMRC intervention to enforce payment of the National Minimum Wage , this could mean that a lot of employment litigation is on the cards unless the companies rework their business model.

There is more of this to come. Uber is appealing the October Employment Tribunal judgment. CitySprint is likely to do the same in this case given the ramifications for its business model. HMRC is setting up an employment status taskforce to investigate these arrangements. Finally, unions and class-action law firms are backing other ‘gig’ economy workers in their cases against well-known courier and taxi companies. The stage is set for many more employment status and tax rulings on these matters, with the current direction of travel for drivers and couriers being that they are likely to gain more rights than ‘gig’ economy businesses have bargained for.