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By classing her as an independent contractor Gnewt Cargo denied Ms Hayley Stanley basic employment rights, such as protection against discrimination, holiday pay and a guaranteed minimum wage.
Hayley faced three years of bullying and discrimination while working at Gnewt Cargo, a company that delivers for big-name brands such as John Lewis and Amazon
Hayley complained to management on several occasions and all complaints were ignored.
A trans woman has launched the first ever transgender discrimination claim against a so-called “gig economy” employer, in a case that will highlight the way in which companies deny workers basic legal protections by classing them as independent contractors.
Ms Hayley Stanley, who is being backed by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWBG) has filed a claim with the employment tribunal against courier company Gnewt Cargo and its parent company Menzies Distribution. Gnewt’s services are subcontracted out to a number of larger courier firms such as Hermes, and it delivers for several high street brands including John Lewis, Debenhams, M&S, Next and Amazon.
Hayley, who worked as a van driver for Gnewt between May 2014 and January 2018, faced over three years of systematic bullying and discrimination. Hayley repeatedly tried to raise her concerns with Gnewt management but was ignored, including an occasion when a manager smirked at her when she was recounting the abuse she suffered at the hands of her colleagues.
In a practice that is characteristic of so-called “gig economy” employers, Gnewt bogusly classified Hayley as an “independent contractor”, denying her basic rights such as a guaranteed minimum wage and holiday pay. By classing her under this category the company could also deny her legal protections against discrimination granted to limb (b) workers and employees. The union will argue that Hayley was in fact an employee or a worker while at Gnewt.
The bullying Hayley faced was consistent throughout her three years of work at Gnewt and took many different forms. Besides being the victim of pointing and sniggering by her colleagues, in at least three occasions Hayley’s bicycle was vandalised when stored within Gnewt’s secured premises. In one of these incidents, a the wheel nut on her bicycle was loosened, which resulted in the wheel nearly coming off while Hayley was riding it.
Her colleagues would also pack boxes and assorted items in front of her loading bay, so that she would have to spend significant time clearing the area before she could load her van and start working. On one occasion, management put a drinks and refreshment area in her loading bay, impeding her from loading her van.
She was dismissed in January 2018, after she accidentally damaged the loading bay door when moving boxes her colleagues had placed in her loading bay. The dismissal happened without warning and without giving her a chance to appeal.
Hayley said:“These companies in the ‘gig economy’ have been given carte blanche to do whatever they want, while people like me get no protections. We can be dismissed at any time without being given a reason and when faced with bullying the companies simply ignore our complaints. I hope with this case I can finally get some justice and that not only Gnewt, but all companies in the gig economy, start cleaning up their act.”
IWGB General Secretary Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee said: “Employment rights are not just about wage issues they are also about dignity and humane treatment. The sort of transphobic bullying and harassment that Hayley was subjected to is just one example of the many human costs of companies bogusly classing their workers as independent contractors. Gnewt cargo is not the only culprit here. If we want employment laws to mean anything, the government needs to actively enforce them.”