Opinion

Worker status - Further worker support?

24th October 2017

In the case of Addison, the company advanced an argument that all of the drivers that it engaged were in fact self employed contractors. The drivers however, asserted that in reality they worked for Addison Lee personally and should therefore be classified as workers. The contract in place between Addison Lee and the drivers stated that the drivers were self employed contractors. The contract specified that in essence, the drivers were the sub contractors of Addison Lee and their role was to fulfil the contracts of Addison Lee.

During the course of proceedings, it was noted that Addison Lee positions itself at the “premium end of the vehicle hire market and stresses high standards of service in its promotional material”. Drivers worked long hours and on some occasions between 50-60 hours per week. Drivers used hired vehicles with Addison Lee livery and were also required to use a handheld XDA which was a specialist form of technology for ensuring that customers could be transported. Drivers were notified of jobs via the XDA and if they could not take them, were required to give an acceptable reason. In reality, sanctions could follow if the manager deemed the reasons unacceptable.

The tribunal noted that there were a number of documents that abundantly evidenced the day to day control that was exercised over the drivers. In addition, drivers were provided with “Driver Guidance” setting out the standards required of drivers when transporting customers e.g. the permitted types of conversation with customers, the requirement for drivers to ask customers for preferred routes. In addition, new drivers were closely monitored in the first 4 weeks and were upgraded in status if successful.

The tribunal considered various pieces of case law in reaching its decision. The tribunal assessed the reality of the case and found that the drivers were workers. Some of the factors that influenced the tribunals’ decision included the following:-

  • The drivers were interviewed for suitability and tested on their knowledge of London;
  • There was an induction process;
  • Drivers made serious financial commitments by way of a hire agreement;
  • The commercial reality was that the drivers were undertaking work as soon as they logged on to the system;
  • The vehicle was subject to Addison Lee livery which could not be removed; and
  • Addison Lee expected drivers to log on and work sufficient hours.

Employer Considerations

Addison Lee is a prime example of where there was a contract defining the relationship as one of self employment but upon an analysis of the reality, this was simply a label. Employers must be aware that despite their business model and intention, if in reality individuals are undertaking the role of worker, the tribunal is likely to find such a relationship.

 

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