MPs are to consider allegations of exploitative work practices at delivery giant Hermes after some couriers alleged they had been told they’d lose delivery rounds unless they accepted pay cuts.
The Guardian newspaper and shadow secretary for employment rights Andy McDonald collected the evidence of exploitation from a number of Hermes workers, including depot managers.
McDonald has asked the chair of the committee, Labour MP Darren Jones, to probe the claims.
One of the practices detailed in the claims was called a “packet racket”, where customers pay for sending large items but the courier only receives payment for delivering a small one.
The Guardian had already reported that some Hermes couriers felt they had to work for no pay sorting parcels so they could start their rounds on time. One depot manager told McDonald that Hermes had refused to hire enough sorters at some of its subcontracted delivery units, meaning that couriers had to sort out packages.
McDonald told the Guardian: “It is clear that bogus self-employment, inadequate employment protections and a lack of enforcement action are enabling these exploitative employment practices.
“With many drivers across the gig economy, along with other key workers, having spent the past year putting their lives on the line to keep our country going through the Covid pandemic, whilst the companies that they work for have raked in vast profits, it is only right that we ensure that we do all that we can to put an end to such unfair and pernicious practices.”
Hermes said it was disappointed McDonald did not give it the opportunity to fully investigate the allegations. A spokeswoman added: “HMRC recently concluded that courier earnings are above minimum wage and that our model is genuine self-employment.” She added that Hermes workers were able to benefit from representation by the GMB union.
“We are continuously reviewing some courier rates to ensure that they are in line with local markets and our fair pay commitments” and that, on average, couriers had received a rate increase in recent years.
She acknowledged that items were occasionally wrongly banded – which Hermes couriers and other workers often corrected – but said claims of a “packet racket” were wide of the mark.
Hermes said it had addressed the “small number of cases where couriers were allegedly not being paid” and insisted that it did not believe underfunding of depots on its part was a factor.