Online only

UK courts tighten definition of ‘worker’

A MOPED COURIER being able to pass on to colleagues via an app details of jobs they don't want does not count as having the right to send a "substitute". They are a "worker" not a self-employed, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The ruling on the case Stuart Delivery Ltd -and- Warren Augustine stated that these couriers had no control over who was "substituted" for them: they didn't know who got their declined job. So the court dismissed an appeal by Stuart Delivery Ltd against an earlier ruling.

Being (theoretically) able to send a substitute - another worker turning up in your stead if you are unavailable - is one of the tests of whether or not you are self-employed in law. Many contracts, including some given to freelance journalists who work shifts, specify that you can send a substitute. Such clauses seem in most cases to have been inserted purely to ensure that the worker stays "self-employed" and is denied some workers' rights.

As the Freelance has noted earlier, legal obligations on those engaging workers to check their legal right to work in the UK and in some cases to provide evidence of a criminal record checks do tend to make the right to substitution somewhat academic anyway.

The ruling will not directly affect freelance journalists. While a small number of journalists are hired for gigs via online platforms such as Fivrr or Mechanical Turk, we're not aware of any journalists being offered shifts via an app, or being able to decline them and pass them on via an app. But any such rulings that improve the working conditions of the gig economy's numerous "bogus self-employed" may end up having a knock-on beneficial event on us genuine freelances.