Gig-economy latest: Addison Lee taken to court over legal status of its drivers

The latest test-case gig economy hearing begins today (4 July), at the Central London employment tribunal, Kingsway, London.

GMB, the union for private hire drivers, has launched a legal challenge against Addison Lee, claiming that the company is ‘shirking its responsibilities through bogus self-employment’.

The challenge brought by the GMB involves three Addison Lee workers represented by law firm Leigh Day. GMB asserts the drivers are workers and therefore entitled to the national minimum wage and holiday pay.

Liana Wood, representing the drivers for Leigh Day, says that Addison Lee argues that drivers do not work for Addison Lee but instead work for themselves and are self-employed.

“On behalf of our clients we will claim that Addison Lee is wrongly classifying its drivers as self-employed with the result that drivers are denied the rights and protections that they were lawfully intended them to have, including the right to not have their contracts terminated because they are members of a trade union,” says Wood.

“We will argue that Addison Lee exerts significant control over its drivers to provide a highly trained and vetted driving service to the public. If Addison Lee wishes to operate in this way, and to reap the substantial benefits, then it must acknowledge its responsibilities towards those drivers as workers.”

Wood adds that this claim is vital for the thousands of Addison Lee drivers who work in England and Wales and has implications even wider than that.

She says: “We are seeing a creeping erosion of employment rights as companies misclassify their workers as self-employed to avoid paying them holiday pay and the national minimum wage.”

In October, GMB represented by Leigh Day won a similar ground-breaking victory against Uber. The ruling of the Tribunal in the Uber case establishes that drivers are entitled to be paid at least the national minimum wage and holiday pay amongst other benefits.

This landmark case has major implications for more than 30,000 drivers across England and Wales, says Leigh Day. Uber is currently appealing the decision in the employment appeal tribunal, which is due to be heard in September.

Maria Ludkin, GMB Legal Director, says: “GMB continues to fight for the rights of our members wherever we see exploitation disguised as bogus self-employment.”

Addison Lee CEO Andy Boland reportedly sent an email ahead of the case, which is reported here.

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