Addison Lee loses their gig economy case

In Addison Lee Ltd. v Gascoigne, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has dismissed an appeal by Addison Lee, the London-based minicab and courier company, seeking to challenge an earlier decision regarding employment status. The EAT rejected the view that the contractual documentation between the parties supported a finding of self-employed status, and upheld the findings of the Employment Tribunal.

In August 2017 the Employment Tribunal held that a former courier, Chris Gascoigne, was a worker and not a self-employed independent contractor. As a result he was entitled to claim certain employment rights including holiday pay.

Addison Lee’s position on appeal was that its couriers were under no legal obligation to work, as they could log-off from the app when they wanted and were free to decide whether to accept the jobs when they were logged on. They stated that at most there was a “gentle pressure” from a controller to accept jobs, but that no adverse consequences were actioned if the couriers did not accept.

In reaching its decision, the EAT emphasised that the facts of the case were the starting point rather than the law. Whilst Mr Gascoigne was not obliged to log into the app, when he was logged-on there was no mechanism for him to refuse jobs offered, other than contacting the controller in exceptional circumstances where the package was too heavy. That Mr Gascoigne could log-off from the app, and there being no express sanction for failing to accept work, did not shift the EAT’s view that there was a contractual obligation for work to be offered and for the individual to accept it. With the necessary mutuality of obligation demonstrated, worker status was established. You may recall that this was also found to be the position in the earlier CitySprint and Uber decisions.

Whilst cases in this area will always turn on their own facts, the decision is yet another nail in the coffin for employers within the gig economy. With a date set for the end of October for Uber’s challenge to worker status to be heard in the Court of Appeal, and the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Pimlico Plumbers on the issue of employment status awaited, employment status cases look set to continue to dominate the headlines throughout 2018.

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