Bates Wells Braithwaite wins landmark ruling against UK's largest courier02/21/2017

BWB's Paul Jennings, assisted by Hannah Wright and David Duhig, has won a landmark ruling at the Central London Employment Tribunal against one of the UK’s largest courier companies in a test case concerning the employment rights of bicycle couriers.

The ruling against CitySprint, a company that turned over more than £140 million last year and boasts a fleet of over 3000 couriers, is the first in a series of co-ordinated legal actions against the UK’s major courier companies.

The claimant, Margaret Dewhurst, 29 from South London, cycles an average of 50 miles a day, transporting blood, medicines, chemotherapy, and organs to hospitals and clinics across London. However, in common with the majority of couriers, Dewhurst does not receive a guaranteed minimum wage, sick pay or holiday pay.

CitySprint argued that it doesn’t actually employ any couriers at all. It contended that its couriers are independent subcontractors and, as such, aren’t covered by statutory protections relating to, for example, holiday pay.

However, in a judgement that echoed the finding against Uber in October of last year, the Tribunal roundly rejected CitySprints arguments. The Judge, Joanna Wade, described CitySprint’s contractual arrangements as “contorted”, “indecipherable” and “window-dressing”.

Paul Jennings described the judgment as “Legally and ethically the right outcome.” Jennings predicts that the judgment will have wider implications: “Until now couriers have occupied a vulnerable position. They carry out physically demanding work, in dangerous conditions, but cannot take paid leave. In the wake of this judgement, we expect to that thousands of couriers across the capital will look to assert their rights and seek back pay.”

Jennings said: “In a sense the law is catching up with technology. The cases against courier companies, just like the case against Uber, involve businesses using innovative technology platforms and business models in a way that seeks to avoid basic statutory rights. Technology aside, the courts take a common-sense approach to these issues: if individuals are controlled, economically dependent and vulnerable to exploitation, basic protections should apply”.

POST SCRIPT: The case against CitySprint is the first in a series of actions against the UK’s major courier companies. Similar challenges against Addison Lee; Excel and E-Courier are due to be heard in March / April 2017.