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The Doctors Laboratory’s decision last year on blood couriers

The Doctors Laboratory, which is the UK’s largest independent provider of clinical laboratory diagnostic services, is the main provider of blood couriers for the National Health Service (NHS). They made the decision to concede and to classify their self-employed van drivers, cycle and motorcycle couriers as employees instead of self-employed workers.

What brought about this change in employment status?

This change came about following settlement of an employment tribunal case and was encouraged by the Government’s response to the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, when it pledged to enforce workers’ basic rights from their first day of employment under any contract type, be it as a full-time employee or workers on casual or zero-hours contracts.

What does this decision mean to those now-employees?

The change in employment status entitles The Doctors Laboratory’s now-employees to full employment rights, such as sick pay, maternity and paternity pay, and crucially, protection against unfair dismissal.

In response to this decision, The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain is seeking the back-payment of holiday pay for around 50 of The Doctors Laboratory’s employees.

How does this decision impact other courier firms who operate using self-employed workers?

The Doctors Laboratory was encouraged to change their agreements with their staff based on the rigidity of their employment arrangements and it is noted that this decision would not necessarily impact other couriers, as those couriers offer their workers much more flexibility within their contracts.

Is this case the start of the end of the gig economy?

Our employment law experts are keeping a close eye on the gig economy and the way in which it is evolving to change the working world forever. No longer is it the case that if you work for a company you are an employee and are naturally entitled to statutory employment rights.

There is a wide range of employment contracts or worker/self-employed agreements now available to employees to increase their workforce without increasing permanent overheads and risks, but these must be used correctly to mitigate risks of misuse propagating, such as in this case with The Doctors Laboratory.

We see the gig economy diversifying to be fairer to those workers engaged under zero-hours or casual employment contracts, but we do not see the end of the gig economy anytime soon. The gig economy status offers both the employer and their workers, flexibility that often cannot be achieved using traditional employment contracts.

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