The German company Hermes is one of the biggest couriers in the UK. However, they get a lot of complaints from customers, and negative criticism for exploiting their couriers. That second problem, at least, is showing improvement. Following a tribunal last year, Hermes and the GMB Union have been negotiating over the right of Hermes couriers to legal status as workers. All of their couriers in the UK can now seek worker status if they want to do so.
Which rights do Hermes couriers have now?
Hermes usually classifies its couriers as being in self-employment. As a member of the gig economy, they pay couriers per unit of work rather than an hourly wage. This will change with the introduction of their “self-employed plus” optional contracts. These will grant them worker status, which is in between self-employment and full employment. The difference is that it entitles couriers to important legal rights that they weren’t entitled to before. Among these are 28 days of paid holiday annually (or the equivalent for part-time workers) and a guaranteed rate of pay. Part of the reason for the company’s poor customer service is that drivers are generally in a hurry to deliver as many parcels as possible to earn more money.
How does Hermes calculate delivery driver wages?
If Hermes couriers opt into the new contract, they will receive £8.55 an hour. Hermes still calculates wages from the number of deliveries each courier makes. However, if they have not had the level of work to earn the equivalent of £8.55 an hour, then Hermes will top up their earnings. This pay guarantee exceeds the minimum wage for workers over 25 years old. The National Living Wage will be rising to £8.21 this April, but Hermes couriers could still be earning more. If they choose to remain as self-employed contractors instead, then Hermes couriers won’t get this benefit or holiday pay unless they opt into the new contract. In order to earn these wages under this contract, drivers must follow designated routes.
Will other gig economy businesses follow Hermes?
There has been a lot of talk about how this deal is historical and what it means for the gig economy as a whole. It is the first deal of its kind between a trade union and a gig economy company. Other such companies, like Uber, Deliveroo, and CitySprint, have been taken to court over the rights of their drivers. Some of the areas of concern include rest breaks and protection against discrimination. The positive attention towards the changes that Hermes is making might influence companies like these to make similar changes, too. However, it won’t happen immediately, and widespread legal changes across the industry are unlikely. The UK government has to do more to protect these workers from exploitative companies.