Addison Lee refused permission to appeal worker status ruling for couriers
The Court of Appeal has refused Addison Lee permission to appeal a ruling that its cycle couriers are workers and not self-employed.
This latest development is the first high profile gig-economy case where permission to appeal to a higher court has been refused.
In Addison Lee v Gascoigne, Mr Gascoigne was a cycle courier in London for Addison Lee for nine years between 2008 and 2017. In 2015, Addison Lee had introduced a new contract which expressly referred to its cycle couriers (including Mr Gascoigne) as being self-employed contractors.
After he stopped working because of back problems, Mr Gascoigne brought a claim for holiday pay, arguing he was a worker. The employment tribunal agreed and ordered Addison Lee to pay him his holiday pay. It ruled that although there was no requirement for Mr Gascoigne to log on to Addison Lee’s app, there were sufficient mutual obligations when he was logged on to establish he was a worker. When logged on to the app, there was an expectation he would be available to work, that Addison Lee would provide him with work and that he would carry it out as directed by Addison Lee.
Addison Lee appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).
The EAT dismissed the appeal in May 2018. It ruled that the employment tribunal had been entitled to find that there was sufficient mutuality of obligation. The mere fact Mr Gascoigne was entitled to log off from the app at any time was not inconsistent with his obligation to accept work when logged on. In addition, the employment tribunal had been entitled to look beyond the contractual wording to the reality of the situation and conclude that Mr Gascoigne was a worker.
Addison Lee sought to appeal this decision to the Court of Appeal, but the Court of Appeal has now refused Addison Lee permission to do so.
The refusal of permission for Addison Lee to appeal is significant. While this signals the end of the line for Addison Lee to appeal these rulings for its couriers, the story for gig-economy workers is far from over.
There are a number of gig-economy cases in the court system at present. Addison Lee is defending separate proceedings in relation to its private hire drivers (who are also claiming worker status) and has appealed a ruling that its drivers are workers entitled to holiday pay and the National Minimum Wage. This appeal is to be heard by the Court of Appeal after the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision in Uber BV and others v Aslam and others (in which Uber is appealing a Court of Appeal ruling that Uber drivers are workers). The Supreme Court gave its first ruling on gig-economy workers in Pimlico Plumbers v Smith, ruling that an employment tribunal was entitled to conclude that a plumber who worked under a contract which described him as an independent contractor was in fact a worker.
With a number of factors used to determine worker status, employers will be awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in the Uber case with interest to see if any further guidance is provided. If they have not already done so, employers are recommended to review their contracts and arrangements to protect themselves against potential claims.
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