Ability to “release” job not an unfettered right to substitution, says EAT

Just in time for Christmas, we have another Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision on employment status in the gig economy: Stuart Delivery Ltd v. Mr Warren Augustine UKEAT/0219/18/BA.

When Mr Augustine, a motorbike courier for Stuart Delivery Ltd (SD), brought a claim (for unauthorised deductions and holiday pay, among other things), SD sought to argue that he was an independent contractor in business on his own account. SD’s argument largely rested on the fact that its mobile app, which connects couriers with clients, allowed Mr Augustine to “release” a delivery shift he had agreed to work providing another courier took the shift on. SD argued that the ability to release shifts meant that its couriers were under no obligation to carry out services personally and could therefore not be classed as workers within the meaning of s.230(1) Employment Rights Act.

The tribunal and EAT both disagreed that Mr Augustine enjoyed the right of substitution. Upon “releasing” a shift, unless another courier agreed to take it on, the courier in question would need to complete the shift themselves or face potential sanctions including fines, a negative performance score and “off-boarding”. As such, Mr Augustine could not be said to be running a business on his own account and was therefore a worker. That meant he was entitled to benefits, such as holiday pay and the National Minimum Wage.

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UK People Reward and Mobility Team

About UK People Reward and Mobility Team

Our People, Reward and Mobility team in the UK advises on all aspects of employment law, both contentious and non-contentious, and covers the full range of pensions and employee benefits issues as well as all areas of immigration law.