An employment tribunal has found that a group of 65 Hermes couriers are workers, not self-employed, in a “landmark” ruling.
The GMB union said it was its latest legal triumph against “bogus” self-employment in the so-called gig economy.
The Leeds tribunal found that a group of Hermes couriers were workers and were entitled to employment rights and to receive the national minimum wage and holiday pay.
The GMB described it as a landmark ruling, which will potentially affect thousands of Hermes couriers.
The ruling affects the 65 couriers who have already brought claims, but is likely to impact upon the wider network of 14,500 Hermes couriers who are engaged under the same contracts, said the GMB.
Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, said: “This is yet another ruling that shows the gig economy for what it is, old-fashioned exploitation under a shiny new facade.
“Bosses can’t just pick and choose which laws to obey.
“Workers’ right were hard won, and the GMB isn’t about to sit back and let them be eroded or removed by the latest loophole employers have come up with to make a few extra quid.
“Not only will this judgment directly affect more than 14,000 Hermes couriers across the country, it’s another nail in the coffin of the exploitative bogus self-employment model which is increasingly rife across the UK.
“We urge Hermes to sit down with us and let’s have meaning discussion.”
A Hermes spokesman said: “We will carefully review the tribunal’s decision, but we are likely to appeal it given that it goes against previous decisions, our understanding of the witness evidence and what we believe the law to be.
“Nevertheless we have always been fully prepared for any outcome of this decision and its impact on 15 couriers and former couriers.
“In the meantime it is business as usual and we remain committed to providing couriers with the benefits of flexible working and the ability to earn well in excess of the national living wage.”
Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee said: “Can even the World Cup produce a better result than this?
“It ranks among the most substantial judicial interventions ever to support vulnerable workers in this country.
“The decision is a mega knockback to those companies still using old means of exploiting vulnerable workers.”
The Government should write into law a positive definition of self-employment to provide clarity on who is and who is not genuinely self-employed, urged the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE).
Director of policy Simon McVicker said: “The uncertainty about who is and who isn’t genuinely self-employed must stop.
“It is unacceptable that policymakers are relying on costly, time-consuming court cases as the first port of call in determining employment status.
“IPSE is calling on the Government to write into law a positive definition of self-employment.
“This would provide peace of mind to the self-employed and companies looking to engage them.
“It would also prevent companies from universally declaring that everyone is a contractor when they should be considered workers or employees.”