UK union sues Amazon over alleged incorrect classification of agency staff UK union sues Amazon over alleged incorrect classification of agency staff

UK union sues Amazon over alleged incorrect classification of agency staff
15 Jun 2018

The GMB union is taking legal action on behalf of UK workers at three delivery firms used by Amazon, arguing they have been wrongly classified as self-employed.

The self-employed workers have no rights to holiday pay, sick pay or overtime, despite carrying out similar duties to full-time employees, the union said 

"Companies used the bogus self-employment model to wrongly deny them employment rights such as the national minimum wage and holiday pay," it attested. "The drivers were required to attend scheduled shifts that were controlled by Amazon, meaning they did not have the flexibility that is integral to being self-employed.”

As a result, the couriers were “treated like employees in terms of their working hours”, a situation that the union contends means they should be “treated as employees in terms of their rights too”. 

Two of the three claimants in the lawsuit are demanding whistleblower status, attesting they were dismissed after raising concerns about working practices.

Amazon has faced various allegations about poor working conditions over recent years. Figures obtained by VICE under the Freedom of Information Act found that ambulances had been called 600 times in the last three years to Amazon’s UK warehouses. 

But an Amazon spokesperson said: "It is simply not correct to suggest that we have unsafe working conditions based on this data or on unsubstantiated anecdotes."

Neil McKay, senior employment and discrimination lawyer at Leigh Day, which is representing the drivers in the case, told HR Magazine that it should make other companies examine their use of agencies.

"The case is significant in that it directly addresses the system that Amazon uses," he said. "They have tried to distance themselves from these companies but all three operate in the same way. Amazon is ultimately in charge of determining the way workers are treated."

 Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

The GMB union is taking legal action on behalf of UK workers at three delivery firms used by Amazon, arguing they have been wrongly classified as self-employed.

The self-employed workers have no rights to holiday pay, sick pay or overtime, despite carrying out similar duties to full-time employees, the union said 

"Companies used the bogus self-employment model to wrongly deny them employment rights such as the national minimum wage and holiday pay," it attested. "The drivers were required to attend scheduled shifts that were controlled by Amazon, meaning they did not have the flexibility that is integral to being self-employed.”

As a result, the couriers were “treated like employees in terms of their working hours”, a situation that the union contends means they should be “treated as employees in terms of their rights too”. 

Two of the three claimants in the lawsuit are demanding whistleblower status, attesting they were dismissed after raising concerns about working practices.

Amazon has faced various allegations about poor working conditions over recent years. Figures obtained by VICE under the Freedom of Information Act found that ambulances had been called 600 times in the last three years to Amazon’s UK warehouses. 

But an Amazon spokesperson said: "It is simply not correct to suggest that we have unsafe working conditions based on this data or on unsubstantiated anecdotes."

Neil McKay, senior employment and discrimination lawyer at Leigh Day, which is representing the drivers in the case, told HR Magazine that it should make other companies examine their use of agencies.

"The case is significant in that it directly addresses the system that Amazon uses," he said. "They have tried to distance themselves from these companies but all three operate in the same way. Amazon is ultimately in charge of determining the way workers are treated."

 Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

Leave a Reply

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing