Precarious work - courts rule

THERE HAVE been recent developments in the world of precarious work that, while they are unlikely to affect freelance journalists, may have a positive impact on "false freelancing" work practices, where workers are freelance in name only, and on the gig economy in general.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal has thrown out an appeal by courier firm Addison Lee and ruled that its couriers meet the legal definition of "workers", giving them rights including holiday pay. The Tribunal concluded that the written terms of the contract (in which couriers were technically "self-employed") did not reflect reality.

The ruling said of the company's relationship with one of its couriers logged into the company's app that "the expectation on both sides was that if he was given a job he would do it. There was no 'decline' button on the computer."

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that a former heating engineer with Pimlico Plumbers was not "self-employed" but a "worker," and that Pimlico Plumbers "cannot be regarded as a client of customer" of his. A lower court will set compensation. This sets a precedent, but there'll be argument over what it applies to.

The Independent Workers of Great Britain union (, representing Deliveroo riders, is seeking £50,000 in crowdfunding for a High Court case it is bringing against Deliveroo, following a tribunal ruling that Deliveroo riders were self-employed and so did not have the right to collective bargaining through a trade union. The Union is also seeking the right to a minimum wage and holiday pay, which they would be entitled to were they not "miscategorised" as self-employed. The case is expected to go to court as we go to press.

Meanwhile, elsewhere...

In Australia, the fair work ombudsman has started court action against food delivery company Foodora, saying its riders are employees with work rights.

A culture of zero-hour contracts is not inevitable. New Zealand recently passed legislation banning zero-hour contracts "in most cases". A Bill that seeks to outlaw most zero-hour contracts is before Parliament in the Republic of Ireland.