Hermes rejects worker exploitation allegations

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.

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One Response to Hermes rejects worker exploitation allegations

  1. Avatar
    J Simons 3 Jun 2021 at 9:09 pm #

    I’m currently a courier for hermes and I can confirm that the exploitation is very true!

    Hermes have enjoyed their busiest year to date during the pandemic and whilst the company have made millions, all is couriers have been forced into a pay cut. If we refused the pay cut, then our rounds would be taken off us. There was no negotiation, no waiting a few more months. We were just threatened with the loss of our jobs.

    As this is our job, our only source of income we all had no choice but to take the pay cuts.

    It’s disgusting behaviour from Hermes. For all our hard work, for working non stop through the pandemic, from spending more time than ever away from our families, for going out when everyone else was isolating at home to avoid the virus, we were all out keeping the country going. Many of our customers relied on us for all their essential deliveries. The thanks we for from Hermes was a paycut. They claim we are all earning too much money.

    What they forget, is we have to pay for our work clothes, we have to pay for our vehicles, we have to pay for many many repairs on our vehicles caused by many unsafe and horrendous roads, we have to pay for our fuel. After all that we still have to pay our mortgages/rent, groceries, bills etc. But we are earning too much.

    We only get paid a set rate per parcel and only get paid if we deliver the parcel successfully.

    We don’t get for the time it takes to sort out the parcels, to scab the parcels and to the load the parcels into our vehicles.

    During peak times, that first stage can take up to an hour. But all that is free work as its not included in the parcel rate.

    We also have to spend a lot of time weighing and measuring our parcels due to the ‘packet racket’ chaos. Many of the big clients are sending through parcels as postables and packets, when most of far too big to get through a letterbox and the often the packets can weigh anything from 1.5kg up to 15kg and yet they are being sent through as packets which have a maximum weight of 1.4kg.

    Hermes are letting their clients get away with this fraud because they their clients are more important than their workers. After weighing the parcels we then have to spend time in the evenings entering the barcodes for all the misbanded parcels. Out of all the misbands we get through, hermes will often reject half, claiming they were banded correctly. They call us liars, as they don’t believe anyone would send a 15kg parcel through as a packet. The differences between packets and standards/heavy is anywhere between 16p to 25p. That is our money, that we are rightly entitled to and we have to fight to get it.

    We receive a lot more packets than standard parcels too now as Hermes have increased the packet weight from 1.3kg to 1.4kg as they want to prove to customers that they are the cheapest delivery agent, yet by doing this, it also means we are paid less.

    All Hermes couriers across the nation are taking unwarranted pay cuts, and are only taking them because they can’t afford to lose their jobs.

    I would understand the paycuts if Hermes were losing clients, money or we weren’t busy. But they hit gold during the last 15 months, whilst we are working for pennies.

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