Workers of the Self-employed Unite (again)

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Workers of the Self-employed Unite (again)

November 16th, 2016, Blog, Legal Updates

Amazon delivery drivers’ complaints follow those of the Uber drivers, Hermes couriers and other workers in the gig economy; namely, that they are treated as casual labour, forced to work on a self-employed basis with no guarantee of work and are paid per ride or delivery. Consequently, they often earn less than the national minimum or living wage (£7.20 per hour). From the reports, it would seem that Amazon Logistics or its agency, are also breaching health and safety obligations and the working time regulations. These provide for minimum daily rest breaks.

However, rather than bringing tribunal claims to enforce their members rights which brings risks of costs and uncertainty, the unions seem to be relying on adverse publicity to force such companies to change their working practices. The BBC undercover investigation and wide press coverage has drawn attention to the Amazon drivers’ working conditions.

The unions have also successfully lobbied Parliament on these issues leading to an inquiry by the Business Strategy Committee into the future world of work. This will focus on the status and rights of agency workers, the self-employed and those working in the gig economy. It will also consider the definition of ‘worker’, minimum wage enforcement and the role of trade unions in providing representation together with other related issues.

Whilst the Government is keen for companies to pay the NMW and NLW (penalties for non-compliance are high), they also want companies to provide work to individuals so will need to strike a balance between the companies and individuals’ interests. If changes are implemented, then this could affect the business models for many gig economy companies and will, doubtless, result in higher prices for customers.

Amazon delivery drivers admitted breaking speed limits and said they did not always have time for toilet breaks because of the pressure to stay on schedule, according to a BBC investigation.

Drivers for companies contracted to work for the online retailer told an undercover reporter that they were expected to deliver up to 200 parcels a day.

The report also claimed some drivers said they were effectively paid less than the minimum wage of £7.20, because of the long hours worked to deliver all their assigned parcels.

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