Couriers have launched legal action against Royal Mail in a case that could benefit thousands of gig economy workers.
The GMB union is taking a case to an employment tribunal on behalf of four Parcelforce drivers who claim they are not paid the minimum wage or holiday pay and do not have rights such as sick pay.
They are classed as self-employed, the issue at the heart of a series of tribunal cases involving workers in the gig economy.
Lawyers for the drivers argue that Royal Mail, Parcelforce’s parent company, has failed to provide them with the national minimum wage and holiday pay. They also claim that the couriers should be entitled to employee rights such as paternity and sick pay and statutory protection from discrimination.
According to the claim, Royal Mail classes the couriers as self-employed, which means that they are not entitled to the same rights as employees.
A first hearing is set for the employment tribunal on February 16. The claimants are based at a small Parcelforce depot in Worcester, where 14 drivers are based, six of whom are classed by Royal Mail as “owner drivers” or self-employed.
Liana Wood, a lawyer at Leigh Day, the London law firm representing the drivers, said: “We believe that Royal Mail owes the same responsibilities as any other company to its employees.
“They should be paid the national minimum wage, they should be able to take leave when their children are born and they should be able to take time off when they are sick.”
Union officials criticised Royal Mail for “shirking its responsibilities through bogus self-employment”. Maria Ludkin, the GMB’s legal director, said: “Having enticed long-standing employees to work under so-called self-employed contracts back in 2003, they have then, again and again, cut back their pay and increased their workload. Despite doing the same job as other employed drivers at Royal Mail, these courier drivers currently have no protection against this treatment whatsoever.”