There’s been another blow for the gig economy as Addison Lee becomes the latest company to lose an employment tribunal case regarding employment status. As with Uber and Deliveroo, the Addison Lee business model is that their drivers are self employed but branded with the company’s logo (t-shirts and bags).
The Tribunal Judge strongly disagreed with Addison Lee’s defence that the Claimant, Mr Gascoigne, was an independent contractor responsible for his own work and time, and found that the company has a high degree of control over ‘contractors’ who do not have a facility to decline a job when it is offered. As such, the judge found that Mr Gascoigne was a worker and should benefit from holiday pay, sick pay and the minimum wage.
Emma O’Leary, employment law consultant for the ELAS Group, says, ‘Notably in this case, the Tribunal was highly critical of a clause in the contract which stated that the contractor should ‘indemnify Addison Lee against any liability for any employment-related claim or any claim based on worker status brought by you’. Essentially this was a clause designed to deter the contractor from contemplating any claims, which the Judge suggested means that Addison Lee knew the risks of an employment status argument.
‘These gig economy cases further highlight a problem that has already been identified in the Taylor Review – a report which made recommendations for the government about exactly this issue – that being the clarification of employment status to protect workers such as Mr Gascoigne and his colleagues.
‘Until these recommendations are implemented and until one of these cases makes it to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, technically there is nothing to stop the gig economy carrying on business as usual as this case is not a binding authority yet. However, it’s likely the floodgates will open and it’s a matter of time before the gig economy companies are compelled to change their business model.’
O’Leary adds, ‘An interesting and unusual case has just been heard in Scotland with an Employment Tribunal ruling that two foster carers were entitled to benefits as employees of the Glasgow City Council. The Tribunal was keen to stress that this was not a judgement about foster carers in general and this case appears to turn on very specific facts, but it is certainly one to watch in light of the current climate of employment status uncertainty.’