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Self-employed plus –
a positive deal

Self-employed plus – a positive deal

Published: 15th February 2019
Area: Corporate & Commercial
Author: Michael Hibbs

The recent deal that Hermes has agreed with its workforce and their unions, signals a significant step forward in UK employment law. The scheme, called ‘self-employed plus’, gives Hermes’ staff a new way to work.

Although not necessarily a surprising development, with the ‘gig economy’ causing businesses to assess their employment processes, this is a bold move and one that other UK businesses may need to follow.

Over recent years, Hermes, Deliveroo, Uber and Pimlico Plumbers have come up against the courts and the media, due to the lack of certainty around whether staff were ‘workers’ or ‘employees’, a difference that alters employment rights.

What does the Hermes deal consist of?

Choice is the focus of the Hermes deal. A middle ground has been negotiated and agreed to by all parties, which allows drivers to choose whether they keep their self-employed status or change to the new ‘self-employed plus’ option.

The original self-employed status meant that staff did not have to be given basic workers’ rights, like National Minimum Wage, holiday and sick pay. Whereas staff who choose to become ‘self-employed plus’ will now be paid above National Minimum Wage and will receive up to 28 days’ paid annual leave on a pro-rata basis.

However, certain freedoms are lost if drivers change to the new status. For example, the couriers must follow the pre-prescribed delivery routes that Hermes sets out. A bargaining chip for the corporate perhaps..?

What benefits does the deal produce?

The deal benefits the drivers, Hermes and the courts, alike. Creating a process that lets staff choose how they wish to be categorised is a clever move by Hermes. Talent retention is vital with the UK close to being a full-employment economy, and offering individuals contracts that suit them is important to maintain this position.

It is not easy to gain agreement from both workers and their unions, but this deal may signify a turning of the tide. By breaking free of the continuous tribunal and appeal cycle of gig economy employment cases, Hermes has shown that employer creativity is what is needed to solve these issues.

Additionally, this decision could free up the time of the courts and tribunals. High-profile gig economy cases take time and plenty of resource. Lessening the number of these cases can only be positive, highlighting better worker-employer relationships and allowing the courts to focus on more critical cases.

Will this deal lead to widespread change?

In the future, this ‘self-employed plus’ status may be rolled out by more companies. However, this change is unlikely to occur immediately.

The Government’s response to the Taylor Review, which was published last year and proposed resolutions to issues with the gig economy, goes some way to address employment-related issues but is yet to be fully actioned. Although, their response is expected to include new laws to be enforced at a later stage. It is likely that the Hermes deal will influence the process and conclusion of this, with a more standardised industry approach to how gig economy engagement documents are formed.

Short-term change is a possibility, as other employers are pushed to change their own processes. Hermes’ ‘self-employed plus’ solution works for them, but it cannot merely be copied by other delivery companies, as the gig economy is not a one-size-fits-all issue. Nevertheless, other groups of workers and their unions will be making sure it is at the forefront of business’ minds in the hope that a similar solution can be created.

‘Self-employed plus’ is an exciting new step for the gig economy. Hermes has proved that there are ways of working that can satisfy both businesses and staff. A new era of creative employers may be on the horizon, a positive move for everyone.

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