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Case Law: Gascoigne vs. Addison Lee
In another ruling about the status of independent contractors in the so called “gig economy”, a cycle courier was found to be a worker. This follows on from similar findings in the cases brought against Uber, City Sprint and others. Mr Gascoigne worked as a cycle courier for Addison Lee from 2008 to 2017. Upon leaving Addison Lee he made a claim for unpaid holidays.
The terms of his contract provided that he was an independent contractor and that nothing in his contract would render him an employee, worker, agent or partner of Addison Lee. The nature of the relationship in itself was complicated with him being a sub-contractor, for bookings with account holders, and for non-account holders he was treated as a disclosed agent. His contract also contained a clause which whereby Mr Gascoigne “agreed” to indemnify Addison Lee against any liability, including costs, as a result of any claim made by him on the basis of employee or worker status. In addition to this, Mr Gascoigne was required to sign a new contract every three months, failure to do so would result in him not receiving work. In reality they were often signed on his behalf, indicating that he had very little knowledge of the contents.
Under the terms of the contract, Mr Gascoigne had a degree of flexibility which he often took full advantage of and essentially worked as and when he wanted. In addition, he often pre-booked holidays, although there was no consequence if he failed to pre-book them. With regards to his pay, he was paid a set rate per delivery and an hourly rate whilst waiting. However, the rates were non-negotiable and were pre-set by Addison Lee. Sums were also deducted for insurance and “admin fees”.
Addison Lee provided Mr Gascoigne with a radio, a palmtop computer and later an app, all of which were free of charge. Whilst working he was provided with things such as a branded bag and t-shirts, although using them wasn’t enforced. When working he would log onto the computer or app and contact a controller, who worked for Addison Lee, they would then issue him with jobs which he couldn’t decline. Although in exceptional circumstances, such as a puncture, he could reasonably turn the job down without penalty.
The employment tribunal concluded that Mr Gascoigne was a worker and that his contract did not truly portray the real relationship that he had with Addison Lee. The basis behind this was that Mr Gascoigne was expected to undertake work for and under the control of Addison Lee and in reality he worked almost continuously for the company whilst logged on. In addition the inability to reject a job, unless there were exceptional circumstances, resulted in a classic wage/work bargain. He was also issued with a weekly combined invoice/statement that was found to be a payslip in all but name. It was also found that he was part of a “homogenous fleet and a homogenous operation which promoted Addison Lee to customers”. As he was found to be a worker, he was ultimately entitled to his unpaid holiday pay.
This decision follows the recent trend of court rulings on employment status in the "gig economy".
The key point for employers to note is that the tribunal decided that the contractual documentation did not reflect the actual relationship between the parties, which was that the worker was required to perform work for the company under the company's control.
For further information, please don’t hesitate to contact a member of our team.
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