Couriers working for The Doctors Laboratory (TDL), a provider of pathology services for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), are taking the company to tribunal in order to have their rights as employees recognized, in the first test case on the so-called “gig-economy” in the healthcare sector.

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), the leading union for workers in the so-called “gig-economy”, has today filed a claim before the London Central Employment Tribunal on behalf of  five TDL couriers, asking the tribunal to determine if they are employees or independent contractors, as the company falsely claims.

Unlike the Uber and CitySprint tribunals which were about worker status, this case argues for employee status, which has much farther implications for tax and employment rights.

TDL, a subsidiary of Australian multinational Sonic Healthcare, which has over £ 3bn in annual turnover, has been bogusly classifying their UK couriers as independent contractors for years, denying them sick pay, holiday pay, and other basic employment rights.

The couriers’ status as employees is demonstrated by the fact that, among other things:

  1. They are required to work regular shifts which are dictated by TDL and failure to follow TDL’s absence procedure can result in dismissal;
  2. They have to request time off (e.g holidays) and are often refused the request;
  3. They are not allowed to reject the deliveries they are told to do;
  4. Couriers are not allowed to take outside employment while working for TDL.

The couriers are contracted by TDL to carry pathology samples to their laboratories, but also to take blood to hospitals for emergency transfusions. The outcome of the case could have an impact on the over 80 couriers working for TDL.

I risked my life every day to get emergency blood to people, but the company won’t even recognise my basic employee rights without a fight,”  says TDL courier and one of the claimants Ronnie. “I have been working for them for over 5 years and I don’t see my life progressing like this. It is like a dead end. I can’t get a mortgage, I have no pay when I go on holiday and I can’t get sick because I won’t get paid.”

IWGB General Secretary Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee says: “The case of TDL, which is a black and white example of bogus employment status, really drives home that these employers are able to act with total impunity. This lends credence to our call for government enforcement in this area. The IWGB can’t single handedly challenge every single employer in this sector.”

Leading employment law barrister Ben Collins QC will be acting on behalf of the IWGB in the case.

For more information:
Dr Jason Moyer-Lee, IWGB General Secretary
02034907530 / 02035383720