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Addison Lee case highlights ‘confusing nature’ of employment law

Government encouraged to end employment status confusion after Addison Lee refused appeal over driver status 

The Court of Appeal has denied Addison Lee’s request to appeal an employment tribunal (ET) decision that its drivers are workers and not self-employed. Lord Justice Bean, who dismissed the appeal against the 2017 ET ruling that had also been upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2018, said the case had no reasonable chance of success.

The judgement is the latest victory for gig economy workers following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling, which found that Uber drivers should be classed as workers and entitled to employment rights such as, minimum wage, holiday pay and sick pay.

This decision means thousands of Addison Lee drivers could be entitled to an average of £10,000 in compensation, according to the Guardian. 

Gig economy a ‘tangled mix’ of workers 

Derek Cribb, CEO at self-employment trade body, IPSE, says the case highlights the need for legal clarity on what it means to be self-employed.

He said: “The Addison Lee judgement is yet another sign after the Uber case that the government must urgently step in on the confusion in the gig economy. 

“The gig economy is a tangled mix not only of people who should truly be categorised as workers, but also a very large number of legitimately self-employed people who rely on the flexibility that freelancing offers.

“Both to restore the rights of exploited workers and also to secure freedom and flexibility for legitimately self-employed people, we urge the government to write into law a clear definition of self-employment. 

“This is the true source of the confusion in the gig economy: that while there is a definition of employee and worker status in UK law, there is still no clear definition of who exactly is self-employed.

“We cannot continue in a situation where the only way to define self-employment is through court case after court case.”

Companies must get to grips with employment status 

Seb Maley, CEO at Qdos, echoed IPSE’s concerns saying it is “exposing the confusing nature of employment law”.

He added: “This case is another reminder of the problems businesses face when engaging people under the wrong employment status. All companies that use self-employed people, not just so-called gig economy firms, should be making well-informed employment status decisions from the word go.

“The case also exposes the confusing nature of employment law, given drivers receive employment rights but stay self-employed for tax purposes. After the introduction of IR35 reform just this month, it’s time employment status and tax status were aligned.”

A spokesperson for Addison Lee said: “This is a historic case, relating to three drivers who stopped driving for us four years ago. Since then, we have since changed our working practices and the way we engage with drivers to ensure we maintain the flexibility our drivers demand while continuing to provide the best earning opportunity for the highest calibre professional drivers.

“In the last 12 months, under new management, Addison Lee has invested heavily to support our drivers’ livelihoods and to keep them and our passengers safe during the pandemic. We will continue to evolve our business model to ensure we continue to deliver for our drivers and customers alike.”

Although Addison Lee has 28 days to appeal to the Supreme Court, it is currently not expected to do so.

By Contractor Weekly

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