Yorkshire employers urged to check contractors’ status

Barry Warne

Business owners in Yorkshire are being urged to check whether the contractors they commission are self-employed.

The call from Barry Warne, partner and head of employment at hlw Keeble Hawson, follows an Employment Tribunal verdict which ruled that Uber drivers are ‘workers’ under the Employment Rights Act 1996. The ruling gives them rights to the national living wage, 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave a year and 48-hour average working weeks with defined rest breaks.

The decision has sparked concerns that companies who rely on contractors will be liable for more costly terms and conditions.

Barry Warne, pictured, said: “While established service arrangements such as local authority foster parents and carers are unlikely to see much upheaval, business models providing online-ordered services and the so called ‘gig’ economy may need to re-examine their employment practices. They include couriers, where temporary positions are common.”  

Already, a group of Deliveroo takeaway couriers has launched claims for workers’ rights, while cycle couriers are bringing cases against CitySprint, Addison Lee, eCourier and Excel.

Mr Warne stressed that the chances of such actions being launched will hinge on whether people who are treated by their ‘employer’ as self-employed or contractors, genuinely feel they are workers – or even employees – in the generally accepted sense.

“To be successful, claimants will probably work for a single firm, rather than have a number of customers they can pick and choose from – as in the Uber case. This arrangement would suggest that they are wholly dependent on one company for their work and therefore more likely to be classified as ‘workers’.

“Organisations in the ‘gig economy’ – or those at the planning or incubator stage – who are concerned about retaining those they regard as contractors, should avoid the financial cost and reputational damage of a public legal battle by taking professional advice over exactly what their status is and establishing fair, legal agreements.”

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