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Stuart couriers seek worker status ruling

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A group of couriers for delivery firm Stuart have launched legal action against the company in a bid to be recognised as ‘workers’ and win the rights that come with that employment status.

Law firm Leigh Day, which is representing the claimants, suggested that “thousands” could be eligible to sign up to the claim. If they win, they could be entitled to back pay for unpaid holiday and the national minimum wage.

Stuart Delivery, which operates in 35 areas across England and Wales, currently classes its riders as self-employed.

Leigh Day employment solicitor Gabriel Morrison said: “We are currently in the second national lockdown of the year – protecting workers’ rights during these times of economic hardship is perhaps even more important than it has ever been.

“It is clear to see how difficult things have become for gig economy workers, yet companies like Stuart continue to deny their couriers basic rights such as holiday pay and the national minimum wage.

“Leigh Day doesn’t think this is right, which is why we are acting on behalf of these hard-working men and women who have helped to keep our economy going during the pandemic.”

In 2018, an employment tribunal found in favour of a Stuart moped courier, Warren Augustine, who claimed he should be classed as a worker.

The decision was later upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which agreed that he should have been classed as a ‘worker’ while he was undertaking fixed hours slots for the firm.

The judgment was based on the fact that Augustine was under the control of the firm during the slot it had given him, unable leave the zone he had been assigned, was required to undertake the deliveries offered to him in return for a guaranteed hourly wage, and was not able to make himself available to other delivery companies during the slot.

Stuart Delivery is set to challenge this decision at the Court of Appeal.

If the company loses its appeal, Leigh Day said the ruling should apply to all of the delivery firm’s couriers. However, only those who signed up to the group litigation will be entitled to compensation.

A former Stuart Delivery courier said: “What made Stuart more appealing than other courier services was that they offered a minimum hourly guarantee which meant I had more security. But over the years, things got progressively worse.

“You don’t get paid for how far you travel to the pickup location, just for the distance between there and the drop off location. I had to have courier insurance which worked out about £7 a day and added to that was the cost of petrol.”

Leigh Day has also brought similar claims against private hire companies Uber and Addison Lee. The Supreme Court is currently preparing its final ruling in the Uber case, while Addison Lee was last year refused permission to appeal against the ruling that its drivers are workers and not self-employed.

Stuart has been contacted for comment.

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