Addison Lee drivers challenge self-employed status

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The claim states that the taxi firm is wrongly classifying its drivers, who then miss out on benefits and protections

Three Addison Lee drivers are arguing they should be entitled to the national minimum wage and holiday pay, which they do not currently receive, at a central London employment tribunal.

Their claim, which is being brought by the GMB, states that Addison Lee is wrongly classifying its drivers as self-employed, with the result that drivers are denied the rights and protections that they were lawfully intended to have.

Leon Deakin, partner at law firm Coffin Mew, explained that there has been increased focus on gig economy firms and how they categorise those who work for them. “In light of the verdict in the Uber drivers’ case it is no surprise that the light is now being shone on other businesses, including Addison Lee,” he said.

Uber lost a case in 2016 when the GMB argued that its drivers were misclassified as independent contractors and should be entitled to additional rights. Uber is currently appealing this verdict.

“The Addison Lee business model operates quite differently to Uber’s and therefore, whatever the outcome, we should at least get some further useful guidance as to how the tribunal views the nuances of such relationships,” added Deakin. “Such extra guidance becomes even more important when it is remembered that the judgement in the Uber case expressly highlighted that there was no reason ‘self-employed’ status could not be achieved with some changes to the mode of operating. Accordingly, anything that further fleshes out what sort of changes and models will or will not be seen as successful is a step forward.”

Deakin told HR magazine that it is likely more firms will come under close scrutiny. “While the GMB and other union-backed claims are likely to focus at this stage on the bigger, more disruptive players the continued publicity surrounding claims may be enough to heighten general awareness, which could result in queries or even claims,” he said.

“With significantly enhanced benefits at stake for the ‘self-employed’ individuals if they can show they are actually engaged as workers and the potential impact on the viability of a business model this can have –especially at the start-up end of the market – it has to be preferable to identify risks and seek to minimise them so far as possible in advance than regret the failure to do so at leisure.”

He suggested firm's review their categorisation of workers.“Any business in the gig economy or otherwise that engages with individuals in a way that could be seen as falling outside the traditional employment model would be well-advised to review the position generally and if necessary take some specific advice,” he said.

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