Legal action related to independent contractor misclassification is making headlines in the UK. Last week, British law firm Leigh Day announced it is representing independent contractor drivers in legal action against UK Express, a logistics firm that delivers parcels for Amazon. The case is being brought by the GMB union.
Law firm Leigh Day represented two Uber drivers in a separate legal action in October where an Employment Tribunal found the Uber drivers to be employees , not independent contractors.
Separately, the Independent reported last week that GMB General Secretary Roache told British lawmakers the gig economy helped fuel the Brexit vote .
“It is rather strange to see cases where employers are accused of misclassifying workers represented as a by-product of the gig economy and a contributory factor towards Brexit,” said John Nurthen, executive director of global research at Staffing Industry Analysts. “Such misclassification is hardly a new feature of the labor market and there are long-standing rules that define whether someone is self-employed or not, and which are fairly common in most developed economies. Employers who wish to verify the employment status of workers can do so through HM Revenue & Customs’ online portal .”
In the UK Express case, Leigh Day reported drivers are subject to substantial control in their work and are required to use a van from the company. Drivers must also work at least 15 days per month and are fined a day’s pay of £110 (US$137) if they do not show up for work.
“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,” said GMB Legal Director Maria Ludkin. “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.”
GMB has also taken separate legal action against courier firm DX Couriers for misclassification. Further, last week the union called for investigations into former Prime Minister David Cameron and former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s relationships to Uber, saying they may have been too close.