Bicycle courier classed as ‘worker’ in second ‘gig economy' case

The Judge described CitySprint’s contractual arrangements with the complainant as “contorted”, “indecipherable” and “window dressing”.

The UK courts have once again shown themselves willing to attach stringent criteria to self-employed status after a bicycle courier won an employment rights case that could have implications for the ‘gig economy’.

A tribunal found that Maggie Dewhurst, a courier with logistics firm CitySprint, should be classed as a worker rather than a self-employed freelancer, which means she is entitled to receive holiday and sick pay as well as the national living wage. Judge Joanna Wade described the firm’s contractual arrangements with Dewhurst as “contorted”, “indecipherable” and “window dressing”.

Although the ruling only applies to Dewhurst, it opens the door to further legal action against CitySprint, which has 3,500 self-employed couriers across the country. The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, which backed the case, has similar hearings pending in March and April against courier companies Addison Lee, eCourier and Excel.

But the case also follows the high-profile tribunal victory for two Uber drivers in October, who were likewise designated as being workers rather than self-employed. The ruling could mean the taxi hailing business, which is appealing the verdict, is also required to provide them with benefits such as sick pay.

CitySpring said it was “disappointed” with the outcome and would review the ruling “in detail”. “This case has demonstrated that there is still widespread confusion regarding this area of law, which is why we are calling on the government to provide better support and help for businesses across the UK who could be similarly affected,” it added.

But Dewhurst, who is from South London, said she was delighted that the tribunal had ruled in her favour as “it set a legal and moral precedent which others can use to make similar claims”.