Alan McCormack | Senior Associate

Is the Gig Up? Freelance and Employment Law

The growth of the gig economy – i.e. people freelancing their services on short-term basis to companies such as Uber, AirBnb and Deliveroo – proves that the business model of being your own boss at the tap of an app is an ever more popular concept.

However, the freedom of self-determination is curtailed by the onerous responsibilities of self-employment and the absence of legal protection in employment law. These issues were outlined in our article on the Pimlico Plumbers’ case, and now the applicability of employment law protections from discrimination will be challenged in Ms Hayley Stanley’s case.

Ms Stanley worked as a van driver from May 2014 to January 2018 for courier company Gnewt Cargo, a subsidiary of Menzies Distribution. During this time, she alleges she was the victim of systematic transphobic bullying and discrimination from her colleagues that was ignored by her management. As she was designated as a self-employed contractor (or a “independent contractor” as others working in the gig economy are similarly designated), Ms Stanley was not directly employed by Gnewt. Thus, she was and still is denied legal protections against discrimination granted to employed workers.

With the support of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, Ms Stanley has filed a discrimination complaint with the Employment Tribunal against Gnewt and Menzies. While Menzies denies Ms Stanely’s dismissal is related to her gender identity, this has the potential be a landmark case if the Employment Tribunal decides that the UK employment law can be applied to self-employed workers in the gig economy, which would have significant effect on the sector and employment law itself.

We will be keeping a close eye on this case and the implications for both employers and workers as a result. Please feel free to contact us should you require any advice regarding employment status on 0333 331 6796 or by clicking here.

Alan McCormack

Alan McCormack

Employment Law Team

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