Individuals are workers if they work under a contract to perform work or services personally for another party to the contract, and are not running their own business. There have been several recent cases in which individuals engaged in the "gig economy" have argued that they are workers and as such entitled to the minimum wage and paid holiday. In the latest of a series of "gig economy" cases, Addison Lee Ltd v Gascoigne, the EAT has confirmed the direction of travel, upholding a tribunal's decision that a cycle courier was a worker.
Mr Gascoigne was not obliged to sign on for courier work at a particular time or times, or indeed at all, but if he wanted to work he would contact a controller by phone or radio and log on to the respondent's system. In practice, he chose when he logged on and had irregular hours of work, often working a short day or a short week. However, when he was logged on he was expected to be available to undertake jobs. The tribunal found that there was mutuality of obligation, an essential feature of a worker relationship, between the parties from the point at which he logged on until he logged off again. It also concluded that he was not running his own business and was therefore a worker. Addison Lee appealed.
The EAT upheld the tribunal's decision. Its conclusion that there was mutuality of obligation was essentially one of fact not of law and as such could be challenged only if it was perverse. There was ample evidence from the contract and the established practice and expectations of the parties that when the individual was logged on he was expected to accept offers of work, unless there were exceptional circumstances. As such, the conclusion about mutuality was unimpeachable.
The second ground of appeal was that factual errors in the tribunal decision meant that its conclusion that the individual was a worker could not stand. None of the respondent's challenges to the tribunal's conclusions were successful. There was no basis for challenging the tribunal's assessment that the reality of the relationship between the parties was one of employer and worker, not one of self-employed business and customer.