Couriers delivering emergency blood supplies have won full employment rights in an out-of-court settlement with pathology company The Doctors Laboratory (TDL).
The company, which last year admitted that its self-employed van drivers and cycle and motorcycle couriers should be classed as workers, has now conceded that some of those couriers are employees.
This entitles them to full employment rights, such as maternity and paternity leave, sick pay and protection against unfair dismissal.
Gig economy union The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) was seeking £1m in backdated holiday pay for around 50 TDL workers.
Ronnie De Andrade, a TDL courier, told the Guardian that the decision meant he and other couriers felt better protected, particularly after having had several accidents while working for the firm without receiving any sick pay.
A TDL spokesperson said: “We are pleased to have achieved a satisfactory settlement with the individuals concerned and to date have received no further claims.”
Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the IWGB, said the decision would not necessarily have any implications for other courier firms, as most offer more flexibility to their workers than TDL had.
“It goes to show that companies are simply choosing to unlawfully deprive people of their rights and it’s only when they are called out on it that things change,” added Moyer-Lee.
In response to the recommendations made in the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, the Government has pledged to enforce workers’ basic rights from their first day in a job. This includes workers on casual and zero-hours contracts.
Gig economy workers ‘content’
Despite critics accusing the Government of failing to address some of the issues surrounding the gig economy, a report published by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy found that many gig economy workers were “relatively content with their working life”.
The experiences of individuals in the gig economy report suggested that many workers seemed “unquestioning of this flexible and patchwork working life”, but some might have found themselves financially vulnerable by taking a gig economy position.
Nigel Meager, director at the Institute for Employment Studies, which led the research, said: “This latest IES research reveals that, for many, the trade-off between flexibility and any resulting lack of employment rights and security is worth the sacrifice.
“Nevertheless, the news of additional rights will be rightly welcomed as new initiatives are introduced to support short-term and pay-by-task workers.
“The diversity of this section of the UK workforce identified in the research highlights a key challenge for policymakers in unpacking the aggregate concepts of gig economy or self-employed to accurately identify the groups and how they should be regulated, protected or indeed reclassified as employees with all the rights and obligations of dependent employment.”