HM Revenue and Customs is reportedly investigating allegations that delivery company Hermes trained managers to mislead tax officials about how it treated workers.
According to the Guardian, a manager at the company has written to Frank Field, chair of the work and pensions committee, alleging that senior managers coached staff during an investigation into whether it had paid some of its self-employed couriers below the national minimum wage. Hermes has denied the claims.
The investigation, which took place in 2016, followed concerns that some of the company’s couriers were earning £6 per hour, despite the national minimum wage being £7.20 at the time.
The anonymous manager reportedly said in the letter: “If we gave an answer to the manager we were corrected and told not to say that but to say something more positive.
“We were coerced into saying something which wasn’t true. Most of which related to self-employed couriers and how they were treated.”
Field allegedly forwarded the manager’s claims to HMRC. The tax authority’s chief executive, Jon Thompson, said it would “assess all the information we receive before making a decision on the most appropriate cause of action”.
A spokesperson for Hermes told the Guardian: “All employees were asked to cooperate fully with HMRC as we are confident in our operating model.”
They said “HMRC is highly skilled at recognising if ‘coaching’ has taken place” and claimed that Hermes urged managers to tell staff “to be open and honest with HMRC”.
An employment tribunal involving several self-employed drivers who work for Hermes began this week. They claim they are being denied benefits such as holiday pay and the national living wage because the company has asked them to identify as self-employed.
“Guaranteed hours, holiday pay, sick pay, pension contributions are not privileges companies can dish out when they fancy. They are the legal right of all UK workers, and that’s what we’re asking the courts to rule on,” GMB general secretary Tim Roache said of the employment tribunal.