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More than 120 UK sub-postmasters have brought an employment lawsuit against the Post Office arguing they should be classified as workers and not self-employed, entitling them to paid holiday, pension rights and sick pay.
According to the Financial Times, the case is due to be heard before the Central London Employment Tribunal later this month. The case could have implications on approximately 8,500 sub-postmasters around the UK and the Post Office could face a multi-million pound bill if the sub-postmasters are successful in their case.
According to the Post Office, the sub-postmasters are self-employed, but they claim they are contractors dependent on the Post Office, which exercises a degree of control over the work they do. Their lawsuit is being backed by the Communication Workers Union and will be heard over six weeks.
Seb Maley, CEO of IR35 and employment status specialist Qdos, said, “This is the latest in a long line of gig economy cases where self-employed workers have taken their engager to court over employment rights. The rapid growth of the gig economy along with complex employment status rules means there are likely to be many more on the horizon.”
“If 120 sub-postmasters are successful and receive employment rights from the Post Office it could pave the way for all 8,500 being granted worker status. It might also inspire millions of other gig economy workers to stake their claim for rights,” Maley continued.
“The implications for the Post Office could be severe, reputationally and financially – and so other companies would be wise to take note. Engage self-employed workers when the relationship reflects employment and the company wouldn’t just need to cover the cost of employment rights – they would be liable for missing employment taxes too,” Maley said.
Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, told London Loves Business, “The sub-postmasters’ employment tribunal comes on the back of a surge of gig economy cases. It is a rising tide of evidence that government must step in to clear the confusion in the gig economy and protect both freelancers and those who should properly be classed as workers.
“The crucial problem is that in the UK, while worker and employee status are defined, there is no such clarity on self-employment. This grey area is leading to the chaos of the gig economy and a situation where status can only be defined by lengthy employment tribunals: this cannot continue. To protect the freedom of the many legitimate freelancers – and also secure the rights of falsely self-employed people – government should define self-employed status in law,” Chamberlain continued.
On February 2021, Uber lost a landmark legal case in the UK Supreme Court which ruled that the work services platform must classify its drivers as workers rather than self-employed.
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