Bike courier wins “gig economy” employment rights legal battle

A bike courier with logistics firm City Sprint has won employment rights such as holiday pay and the minimum wage after a tribunal ruled that the she was not a self-employed contractor, but rather a worker for the company entitled to basic worker rights.

The ruling is said to have big implications for the UK’s growing “gig economy”.


Margaret Dewhurst, who has been with City Sprint for the past two years, claimed her role was more like that of a worker rather than an “independent contracter”, which is what the firm classed her as.

She was travelling up to 50 miles a day, four days a week for her employer.

Dewhurst was quoted by the BBC as saying: “We spend all day being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it. We’re under their control. We’re not a mosaic of small businesses and that’s why we deserve basic employment rights like the national minimum wage.”

She said she felt “delighted” that the tribunal ruled in her favour “as it has set a legal and moral precedent which others can use to make similar claims.”

Paul Jennings, a partner at law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite which represented Ms Dewhurst, told The Financial Times:

“In the wake of this judgment, we expect that thousands of couriers across the capital will look to assert their rights and seek back pay.

“In a sense, the law is catching up with technology. The cases against courier companies, just like the case against Uber, involve businesses using innovative technology platforms and business models in a way that seeks to avoid basic statutory rights.

“Technology aside, the courts take a commonsense approach to these issues: if individuals are controlled, economically dependent and vulnerable to exploitation, basic protections should apply.”

CitySprint is the the UK’s leading same day courier service. It has a network of 3,500 couriers who are classed as self-employed.

The firm said it was disappointed with the ruling but stressed that it only applied to a single individual.

A CitySprint spokesman said: “We are disappointed with today’s ruling. It is important to remember that this applies to a single individual and was not a test case.

“Because of the complexity of the judgment we will be reviewing it in detail before making any further comment.”

The company says it enjoys a “good relationship” with their fleet, with evidence showing “the vast majority of our couriers enjoy the freedom and flexibility of their current role”.

“This case has demonstrated that there is still widespread confusion regarding this area of law, which is why we are calling on the Government to provide better support and help for businesses across the UK who could be similarly affected,” CitySprint added.