Self employed couriers offered employment deal

Consumer delivery company Hermes has signed a deal with the GMB Union which means its self-employed couriers now have the option to take holiday pay and have guaranteed earnings, in a move to improve employment conditions for gig economy workers

Hermes couriers can now choose to become ‘self-employed plus’, which provides a number of benefits such as holiday pay (pro-rata up to 28 days), and individually negotiated pay rates that allow couriers to earn at least £8.55 per hour over the year.  In addition, those self-employed plus couriers that join the GMB union will benefit from full GMB representation.

The union says the collective bargaining agreement is the first ever recognition deal of its type, and is designed to support the rights of an estimated 15,000 self-employed people providing courier services to Hermes.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary said: ‘This is an opt-in model and will not affect those couriers who wish to retain their current form of self-employed status and earn premium rates, as has been the case for the past 20 years.’

Martijn de Lange, Hermes UK CEO, said: ‘This new option allows couriers to retain the flexibility of self-employment we know is so important to them and gives them the certainty of guaranteed levels of earning, the security of holiday pay and a strong voice.

‘We’re proud to be leading the way with this pioneering development which we hope will encourage other companies to reflect on the employment models they use.’

Roache said: ‘Full credit to Hermes. They’re showing that the gig economy doesn’t have to be an exploitative economy and we look forward to working with them through this groundbreaking agreement.

‘Other employers should take notice, this is how it’s done.’

Paul Holcroft, associate director at Croner said: 'This announcement reaffirms the importance of ensuring that the ability to work flexibly, an increasingly popular option within the modern workplace, is matched with fairness. Although ‘self-employed plus’ is unique to Hermes and employers are under no legal obligation to introduce something similar, it would seem to be the latest development in the long-running struggle that employers are facing in regards to the gig economy and false labelling of employment status.

'Instead of arguing that the relationship between Hermes and its drivers reflects that of an employee or worker the Union seems to have taken a new approach here, negotiating directly with Hermes for additional rights the drivers can receive.

'While this scheme is likely to be positively received by some self-employed drivers associated with Hermes by offering them more security whilst allowing them to maintain flexibility, employers should bear in mind that this should not be approached as a way of trying to avoid an accusation of false labelling. It should be remembered that the rules surrounding employee status still apply regardless of any compromises or agreements that have been reached with the operatives in question.

'It will not be enough to simply pick and choose which rights should be provided to an individual; if they are labelled self-employed but the actual relationship reflects that of a worker or employee, employers will be expected to facilitate their appropriate entitlements.

'This includes the right to holiday pay, the national minimum wage, rest breaks and protection from discrimination, something not available to self-employed individuals.

'Employers should also note that the ongoing debate surrounding the gig economy is far from over, with the government recently announcing that it intends to evaluate the effectiveness of the current law surrounding employment status in response to Matthew Taylor’s Good Work Plan.'

IPSE’s Director of Policy Simon McVicker commented: 'It has to be said clearly: we do not believe Hermes drivers are or have ever been self-employed, so in no way is this a ‘new deal for the self-employed’.

The line between employment and self-employment is blurred, and the debate extremely complex, but we have considered the Hermes example very carefully and come to the conclusion that their couriers are not self-employed.

'By creating ‘self-employed plus’ status, Hermes is muddying the waters of employment status even further. Of course it is an imperative to protect people with an uncertain working status, but this is not the way to do it. It should not be up to multinationals like Hermes to create new statuses and effectively decide UK employment law. Instead of creating this new and unnecessary status, Hermes should simply give their drivers the full package of benefits they are entitled to.

'We believe the way to clear the confusion about employment status is for the government to write into law a statutory definition of self-employment. At the moment, there is a legal definition of both worker and employee status, but nothing for the self-employed. A statutory definition would not only protect legitimately self-employed people, but also ensure falsely self-employed workers have the rights and protections they deserve.'
 

Report by Pat Sweet, Amy Austin

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