Law firm Leigh Day is looking to launch group action against Amazon to secure employment rights for drivers.
It will argue that delivery drivers hired via third party companies should be given the same rights as direct Amazon employees.
According to Leigh Day, drivers who work for Amazon’s “delivery service partners” are not entitled to the national minimum wage or an employment contract because they are self-employed.
The firm has already started legal action on behalf of two drivers and is now looking for others to join a group action.
It believes they could be entitled to an average of £10,500 compensation for each year they have delivered for the company. Leigh Day estimates that at least 3,000 drivers could be eligible for compensation totalling £140 million.
Similar to Uber or other taxi hailing companies, Leigh Day claims that Amazon drivers are given estimated timings between deliveries via an app. They are not allowed to bring parcels back to the depot at the end of the day so must use extra fuel to redeliver, according to Leigh Day.
Amazon refutes this claim, saying no estimated timings are given, and that the routing app is used for guidance only. Drivers are also compensated for fuel rather than this coming out of their earnings, a spokesperson said.
After expenses for van rental, fuel and insurance, they are left with little in earnings, the firm alleges. One driver told the firm that “Amazon controls everything you do” and that the company would call him if he stopped his van for a few minutes.
Amazon also denies this claim, reporting that drivers would be contacted by a delivery partner as would be the same for any delivery company.
In February this year, the Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers were workers – and therefore entitled to basic rights such as paid holiday – with much of the case resting on “subordination and dependency” and the amount of control exerted by Uber and its app.
Kate Robinson, a solicitor in the employment team at Leigh Day, said Amazon was “short-changing” drivers who work for third-party partners.
“This is disgraceful behaviour from a company that makes billions of pounds a year. Drivers delivering for Amazon have to work set shifts and book time off, yet Amazon claims they are self-employed,” she said.
“Paying out compensation of £140m sounds like a large bill to foot, but for a company that turned a profit of £5.8bn in the first three months of 2021, it’s a drop in the ocean.
“For drivers on the other hand, earning at least national minimum wage, getting holiday pay and being under a proper employment contract could be life changing.”
Seb Maley, CEO of employment status company Qdos, said Leigh Day’s latest claim showed momentum was building in terms of gig economy workers seeking employment rights.
“It’s yet another case that exposes the confusing nature of employment law, which potentially leaves millions of workers somewhere between self-employment and employment. On the flipside, it can leave businesses engaging these workers unsure of their obligations,” he said.
“Despite being classed as self-employed, contractual terms often mean gig economy workers have little control over how they provide their services. As a result, their true employment status edges closer to employment rather than self-employment. We’ll have to wait and see if this is the case here.”
An Amazon spokesperson said: “We’re hugely proud of the drivers who work with our partners across the country, getting our customers what they want, when they want, wherever they are.
“We are committed to ensuring these drivers are fairly compensated by the delivery companies they work with and are treated with respect, and this is reflected by the positive feedback we hear from drivers every day.” It added that drivers earn a day rate of at least £120.