Self-employment in the UK is increasing rapidly but not necessarily, by choice. Many workers such as couriers, hairdressers and others are put on contracts describing them as self-employed whereas they are, in reality, employed or have worker status.
The test of employed/self employment status is one of control. The more autonomous a person is in how they do the job, the more likely they are to be self-employed. In the current case involving self-employed couriers, the tribunal will look at the extent to which the individual couriers can control when and how they do a job: do they have to wear a uniform, can they get someone else to provide the service, and so on.
Self-employed people have no employment rights whereas employed or worker status gives individuals employment rights such as the national minimum wage and holiday pay and if employed for two years or more, unfair dismissal rights.
If the couriers are successful in showing that they are ‘falsely self-employed’, then this could have major repercussions for other companies which use self-employment status to get round employment rights. However, individuals may also find that work is no longer offered on a regular basis which means they will, ultimately, be worse off.
Four bicycle couriers are taking their companies to a tribunal in a bid to get employed workers’ rights, including paid holidays and the minimum wage.
If successful, the case could have a huge impact on the growing number of workers who are being wrongly categorised as self-employed.
The couriers are considered self-employed contractors despite working for one firm for about 50 hours a week.
The courier companies say the tribunal claims are unfounded.