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Court of Appeal rules against Stuart Delivery in gig-economy case

FIRMS exploiting workers in the so-called gig economy suffered a huge blow today after the Court of Appeal ruled that refusal to pay the minimum wage, sick pay, holiday pay and other entitlements is unlawful.

The case involved food courier company Stuart Delivery, whose corporate clients include Pizza Hut, JustEat, McDonald’s, KFC, Nespresso and Ocado, was brought independently by courier Warren Augustine.

An employment tribunal in London in April 2018 ruled that Mr Augustine was entitled to employment rights despite being classified as an “independent contractor” by the company.

Stuart Delivery lost a second challenge at an employment appeal tribunal in December 2019, which upheld the original ruling, and now again at the Court of Appeal.

The ruling could set a precedent for up to 7.5 million UK workers expected to be working in the gig economy by 2022, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) said.

The IWGB is pursuing a similar case on behalf of 150 couriers at Stuart Delivery, and said that “misclassification of workers” as self-employed or as independent contractors is “widespread” in the gig economy.

IWGB president Alex Marshall said the Court of Appeal ruling was “another huge blow for the exploitative employment model adopted by many companies in the so-called gig economy.

“One by one companies are being told to pay up and obey the law.

“It should not be the responsibility of low-paid workers and their trade unions to organise and take legal or direct action in order to achieve these outcomes, but the IWGB and its members will continue to hold bad employers to account in order to end systemic exploitation.”

The case is being backed by the Black Lives Matter movement, and the IWGB said that black and minority ethnic workers (BAME) are disproportionately affected by exploitation in the gig economy.

One of the IWGB claimants working at Stuart Delivery, John Kirk, said: “Gig companies like Stuart fight tooth and nail in the courts to avoid providing even the most basic workers’ rights.

“They think they can get away with it because their workforce is disproportionately BAME, marginalised and underpaid. But every court ruling in our favour brings their predatory employment model closer to collapse.”

A Stuart spokesperson said: “We respect the Court’s decision which focussed on a single courier who used the Stuart platform for a short time between 2016 and 2017.

“Since then we have made a number of changes to our business and our operating model as part of our ongoing commitment to being the best delivery platform for couriers seeking flexibility and financial security.

“We regularly survey our courier partners to ensure we are fulfilling this commitment and the results demonstrate the overwhelming majority of couriers are satisfied performing deliveries through the platform.”

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