Gig economy workers ‘like the flexibility’

HermesImage copyright

The bosses of two of Britain’s biggest delivery firms have hit back at a claim people only work for them because they are “desperate”.

Carole Woodhead, of Hermes, said most of her couriers welcomed the flexibility of being self-employed as well as did not want jobs.

City Sprint cycle courier boss Patrick Gallagher said he had to treat people well or they would certainly quit.

The pair were speaking at a fringe meeting at the Tory conference.

Hermes, which has 50,000 self-employed couriers as well as delivers parcels for John Lewis as well as Next among many others, is actually facing an HMRC investigation into claims some of its drivers receive less than the minimum wage.

Ms Woodhead said her couriers all earned a “minimum” of £8.50 an hour, well above the minimum wage, as well as many earned a lot more than in which.

One conference-goer challenged her claim in which “nobody is actually exploited in my business as well as everybody has an opportunity to earn as well as earn well” – as well as in which in which would certainly be put at risk if the government forced firms to give self-employed workers more employment rights.

He said his niece had worked for Hermes for a while as well as had been “horribly exploited”, adding in which he suspected people only took such jobs out of “desperation” because they needed the money,

Ms Woodhead said she was “sorry” the man’s relative had felt in which way, yet added: “We know in which most of our couriers do not want to be employed. They like the flexibility of being self-employed.

“They like the ability to choose – the number of rounds they do, the number of hours they work.”

She said a “rigid” 35 to 40 hour week would certainly be bad news for the students, carers as well as parents who delivered parcels for her firm.

Image caption

Maggie Dewhurst won an employment tribunal against City Sprint

“in which would certainly be painfully wrong if there [were] to be adjustments inside legislation which meant a large number of those people were not able to access the type of flexible labour market they depend upon.”

Patrick Gallagher said moving to the “dependent contractor” system proposed by Matthew Taylor in his government-commissioned report on the gig economy, would certainly hold back couriers who wanted to earn extra cash.

“in which meritocracy where you put the effort in as well as you get rewards for – in which goes away,” he says.

He claimed the “vast majority” of City Sprint couriers wanted “things to remain as they are”.

Addressing the man who complained about exploitation, he said: “You say desperation. in which’s never been more competitive. My couriers leave as well as go to food fleets, food delivery fleets.

“I have to ensure they are treated fairly as well as paid well. If I don’t the business is actually over. in which’s not about me, in which’s about them.”

He said City Sprint had only lost one employment tribunal in its history, a reference to a courier who won the right to be classed as a worker, with access to holiday pay, sick pay as well as additional benefits, rather than self-employed.

in which was the first of four legal challenges being taken against courier companies, which include Addison Lee, Excel as well as E-Courier.

Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke, who said he had been self-employed as a barrister, said: “If in which is actually such an awful lifestyle why do so many people do in which? Because in which’s not like they don’t have a choice. Because there is actually a choice when you have unemployment as low as in which is actually.”

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