A small group of couriers working in the healthcare sector have filed a legal claim to an employment tribunal in the hope that they might gain the right to be considered and treated as employees rather than as self-employed professionals.
The claim marks a new frontier in a battle going on in various parts of what has become known as the gig economy, whereby individuals provide services via a particular company without technically being employed by them.
A recent case in London saw an employment tribunal rule that Uber drivers are in fact employees of the very widely used car-hailing company and not self-employed service providers.
The consequences of that ruling are still being worked out but it could be that Uber and other companies that benefit from the gig economy will soon be required to pay their workers sick pay, holiday pay and an hourly rate at or above the national minimum wage.
Now the legal uncertainties in these contexts look to have spread to the healthcare sector, with five couriers for a company called the Doctors Laboratory having filed a claim at an employment tribunal in London, according the Financial Times.
The couriers are responsible for transporting blood and pathology samples on behalf of the Doctors Laboratory but are currently regarded as being self-employed rather than employees of the company.
The Doctors Laboratory has said it has not been formally notified of any employment tribunal claims but insists that it always keeps its employment policies under review and adheres to any relevant legal requirements.
For their part, the blood and pathology sample couriers have said that they work exclusively for the Doctors Laboratory, wear specific uniforms and work regular shifts in a way which they claim ought to entitle them to the rights of any other employee.
The government is in the process of investigating the nature of employment within the ‘gig economy’, with representatives of Uber and the food delivery firm Deliveroo consistently making the case that granting employee status to their drivers and riders would be a damaging change for their businesses.
Deliveroo recently confirmed that it is dropping a controversial clause in its contracts with delivery drivers that had previously prevented them from taking the company to an employment tribunal over the issue of their self-employed status.