Hermes’ new self-employment offer may not be as good as it seems, warns Mackrell Turner Garrett

Posted on Tuesday February 5, 2019

Donna Martin

Courier giant, Hermes, has announced that it is to offer its drivers new rights, while still allowing them to maintain self-employed status.

The new deal comes following an agreement with the GMB union that sees the 15,000 drivers that are contracted to work with the firm being offered a form of ‘self-employment plus’.

‘Self-employment plus’ seeks to offer drivers up to 28 days of paid leave per year and pay rates of up to £8.50 per hour and, in exchange, they will be expected to follow routes specified by Hermes when out delivering.

It is thought to be the first such proposal of its kind offered to gig economy workers and comes after 200 Hermes couriers won the right to be recognised as “workers” at an employment tribunal in 2018.

However, despite the additional rights on offer, Donna Martin, Head of Employment and Immigration at Mackrell Turner Garrett has said that drivers and other gig economy workers should proceed with caution.

“The extension of new rights to the workers at Hermes will be seen as a victory by some who are opposed to the current working conditions on offer,” said Donna.

“However, we must recognise, that this is an opt-in arrangement and by choosing to opt-in, Hermes will be able to dictate the route the driver takes when delivering”.

Unlike workers, it is not yet clear whether those operating under these new arrangements will get sick pay, rest breaks or have their engagement protected in other ways, such as the basic rights against unlawful discrimination afforded to other workers.

“While these workers will be gaining new rights, they will effectively still be contractors for the business and not employees or workers and therefore they can have their contract cancelled or cut back at a moment’s notice without explanation.

“This is unlike a traditional working arrangement where employers are unable to dismiss established employees without sufficient reason, such as gross misconduct.”

Donna said that considering these points, the new arrangement offered to Hermes drivers may not be as ground-breaking as initially thought.

“Due to the number of high-profile cases involving similar operators in the gig economy currently going through the UK court system, I suspect that Hermes may be hedging its bets and seeming to offer more,” said Donna.

“What needs to be assessed is the level of benefits actually on offer and whether this goes far enough to prevent Hermes drivers from making further status related claims in the future.”

Donna has said that those who are offered the new form of contract, either from Hermes or other operators who may follow suit, should seek additional advice.

To find out more about Mackrell Turner Garrett’s employment expertise, please contact Donna Martin.