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New 'gig economy' legal challenge against Amazon courier firm

Leigh Day are representing UK Express drivers and argue that they are entitled to basic employment rights

Amazon parcel

31 March 2017

Law firm Leigh Day have announced that they are representing drivers in cases brought against national logistics company UK Express, which delivers parcels for Amazon, by the GMB union.

The legal claim argues that the UK Express drivers are workers and are not self-employed, as they are currently labelled by the company, and are therefore entitled to basic employment rights such as minimum wage and holiday pay.

In October 2016 Leigh Day argued successfully at the Employment Tribunal that Uber drivers were workers and entitled to those rights, in claims also brought by the GMB union. 

In this case, drivers are subject to very substantial control by UK Express in how they carry out their day to day work including the routes they follow, the deadlines for delivering parcels and the requirement to use a van that they hire from the company. Also, the company requires the drivers to be available for at least 15 days per month and if a driver is unable to work a shift, even if due to sickness or other good reason, then they are fined a day's pay of £110. 

Nigel Mackay, a lawyer in the employment team at Leigh Day, said: “We believe UK Express drivers are workers who are being denied their rights, including paid holiday and the National Minimum Wage, due to being mislabelled by UK Express as self-employed. Drivers are also being fined if they can’t work, even when they have good reason. We believe this is unlawful.

"UK Express is paid by Amazon to deliver its parcels. We believe Amazon should require its contractors to provide workers with their legal entitlements, including paid holiday and National Minimum Wage, and to stop fining staff if they are unable to work.” 

Maria Ludkin, GMB Legal Director said: “This is another case in a long line of legal battles around bogus self-employment. 

“Employers might not like paying the Minimum Wage or giving their workers the protections they’re entitled to in the workplace, but I’m afraid it’s not optional. UK Express deliver for some of the world’s largest companies, in this case Amazon. The drivers delivering for Amazon  – like Uber drivers and delivery drivers for DX – cannot be classed as anything other than employed when you look at the law. We don’t get to pick and choose which laws we adhere to and which we don’t like the look of. 

“This is a much wider issue than individual companies like UK Express or Uber. This is about employment in 21st century Britain. Fake self-employment is costing the Treasury and the economy millions while trapping some very hardworking people in in-work poverty. Amazon are already costing us enough but refusing to pay their taxes.  It’s not on, and GMB will never stand by and allow this sort of status quo to continue – this won’t be the last case we bring.”

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