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Stuart couriers inch closer to workers’ rights as delivery company loses appeal

Delivery company Stuart has suffered another blow in its attempts to deny couriers worker status after the Court of Appeal ruled it was unlawful to refuse a courier rights like holiday pay and the National Minimum Wage.

Posted on 18 October 2021

The appeal follows rulings by the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeals Tribunal in 2018 and 2019 in the case brought by courier Warren Augustine.

Leigh Day does not represent Mr Augustine but believes that this most recent ruling should apply to all Stuart couriers who bring workers’ rights claims.

The firm is working on behalf of more than 200 Stuart couriers, many of whom are IWGB union members, arguing that because of the way that Stuart operates couriers should be classed as workers.

Stuart operates across the UK and has clients including McDonalds, Nespresso and Ocado.

They unsuccessfully argued in their appeal that because a courier can allocate their assigned slots to another person, they have what is known as the ‘right to substitute’, which is key to being classed as an independent contractor rather than a worker.

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Judges dismissed Stuart’s appeal in less than three hours without needing to hear from Mr Augustine, the courier involved in the claim.

The Court of Appeal upheld the Tribunal’s original finding that a ‘right to substitute’ was limited as slots could only be reassigned to other Stuart couriers and remained the original courier’s responsibility if no one else could complete the job.

Gabriel Morrison, a solicitor in the employment team at Leigh Day, said: 

“Stuart has tried to deny Mr Augustine’s important workers’ rights three times, first in the Employment Tribunal, then in the Employment Appeal Tribunal and now in the Court of Appeal. Three times it has failed.

“This goes to show that what we have been saying all along is right: Stuart couriers should be classed as workers and given the rights they deserve.

“Both Leigh Day and IWGB believe it’s time for Stuart to recognise that the way they treat couriers is unlawful, which is why we will argue that this ruling should apply to the hundreds of Stuart couriers we are bringing legal claims on behalf of.”

Alex Marshall, president, IWGB, said: 

 “This is another huge blow for the exploitative employment model adopted by many companies in the so-called gig economy.

“It proves that workers can have both flexibility and workers’ rights. One by one, companies are being told to pay up and obey the law.

“It should not be the responsibility of low paid workers and their trade unions to organise and take legal or direct action in order to achieve these outcomes, but the IWGB and its members will continue to hold bad employers to account in order to end systemic exploitation.”

For more information or to join the claim visit