Car and courier company Addison Lee has been ordered by the UK Court of Appeal to give its drivers ‘worker’ status, entitling them to the national minimum wage and paid holiday leave.
The decision means Addison Lee might owe drivers £10,000 each in compensation for underpaying them when they were deemed to be self-employed by the company.
The UK court had been considering Addison Lee’s appeal of a ruling by a 2017 employment tribunal that found three workers had been wrongly classed as self-employed and were in fact entitled to the worker status.
In a judgement, which was published on 22 April, Lord Justice Bean dismissed the appeal.
Lord Justice Bean had also been involved in a similar case regarding Uber, which Uber later appealed to the UK supreme court and lost.
As a result, in March Uber decided to turn its drivers into workers.
However, Uber has not complied with all of the requirements of the Supreme Court ruling—most notably only paying its drivers minimum wage when they were on a trip, and not when they are logged into the app waiting for a job.
While Leigh Day solicitor Liana Wood, who worked on the case, commented: “This is a huge decision in favor of Addison Lee drivers and yet another blow to big firms operating in the gig economy.
“This decision follows hot on the heels of the landmark Uber judgment in the Supreme Court. At Leigh Day we hope other companies with similar business models to Uber and Addison Lee recognize they cannot continue to deny people basic rights such as holiday pay and the national minimum wage.”
Addison Lee now has 28 days to appeal this case to the Supreme Court. UNLEASH has approached Addison Lee for comment, but at the time of publication had not received a reply.
A spokesperson at Addison Lee told the Guardian: “This is a historic case, relating to three drivers who stopped driving for us four years ago.
“Since then, we have changed our working practices and the way we engage with drivers to ensure we maintain the flexibility our drivers demand while continuing to provide the best earning opportunity for the highest caliber professional drivers.
“In the last 12 months, under new management, Addison Lee has invested heavily to support our drivers’ livelihoods and to keep them and our passengers safe during the pandemic.
“We will continue to evolve our business model to ensure we continue to deliver for our drivers and customers alike.”
A good week for the UK gig economy
This marks the latest win for the rights of individuals engaged in the UK gig economy.
On 21 April, Just Eat announced it was turning thousands of its delivery couriers across the UK into workers. It is doing so by applying a model — called Scoober — it inherited through a merger with Dutch-based Takeaway.com.
Just Eat has also implemented a similar approach in France, Spain, and Italy.