Mary Turner for The Times
Addison Lee, the minicab and courier company, is the latest business to face legal action over its definition of drivers as self-employed.
Today lawyers for the GMB union will launch an employment tribunal claim against the company, alleging that the self-employed status of its drivers was “bogus”. Union officials claim that the company’s 3,800 drivers across the UK are workers and therefore entitled to the national minimum wage and holiday pay – benefits it alleges they are currently denied. The hearing started yesterday at the Central London Employment Tribunal, with the union saying that it was bringing a test case involving three claimant drivers.
Similar actions have been taken against a variety of so-called gig economy employers. In October, the GMB won a similar ground-breaking claim against Uber. The taxi-hailing app business is appealing that finding, with a hearing listed for two days starting on September 27.
In case against Addison Lee, the GMB has instructed the same law firm that won the Uber claim, the London practice Leigh Day. “We will claim 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 them to have, including the right to not have their contracts terminated because they are members of a trade union,” said Liana Wood, a lawyer at the firm.
She said the union would argue that Addison Lee “exerts significant control over its drivers in order to provide a highly trained and vetted driving service to the public. If Addison Lee wishes to operate in this way, and to reap the substantial benefits, then it must acknowledge its responsibilities towards those drivers as workers”.
The lawyers and the union said the claim would be “vital for the thousands of Addison Lee drivers who work in England and Wales”.
In a statement, Andy Boland, Addison Lee’s chief executive, said: “The relationship between Addison Lee and its drivers remains the backbone of our business and we are committed to maintaining the flexibility and fairness that served both parties so well. We will also continue to review our driver deal as market conditions change, to ensure we attract and retain the best drivers in our industry to work in partnership with us.”