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High Court grants IWGB permission to challenge Health and Safety legislation

09 July 2020 07:03
  • Case could extend health and safety rights to hundreds of thousands of workers
  • Gig economy workers could have right to PPE and to take legal action against employers that dismiss them after they refuse to work under unsafe conditions
  • Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has joined as a second defendant, alongside the first defendant, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

09 July:The High Court has granted permission to the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) to proceed with a judicial review that could extend health and safety rights to hundreds of thousands of so-called “gig economy” workers.

The IWGB is arguing that the UK Government has failed in its obligation to transpose health and safety directives from EU law into UK law. Whereas UK health and safety law only protects employees, EU law extends these protections, to all those classified as workers.

If successful, the judicial review would force the Government to extend health and safety protections to all ‘workers’, including hundreds of thousands in the so-called “gig economy”, such as Uber drivers and parcel couriers (1). This would include a right to personal protective equipment (PPE) and a right to bring legal action against an employer if a worker suffers a detriment or is dismissed after refusing to work under unsafe conditions.

IWGB President Henry Chango Lopez said: “Gig economy workers have been among those with the highest death rates from Covid-19. This isn’t by accident, but the result of a failure by this and past governments to properly implement health and safety legislation. For far too long, the government has turned a blind-eye to the abuses of gig economy employers, allowing them to make up the rules as they go along, while ignoring the safety of their staff. With this case we will start to reclaim some of the basic rights that are being routinely denied to these workers.” (2)

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has joined as a second defendant to the proceedings, alongside the first defendant, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. The Health and Safety Executive has been added as an interested party.

The IWGB has launched a crowdfunder to cover the potential cost liabilities, which the judge has now capped to £4,500.

The union is represented by Ijeoma Omambala QC and Cyril Adjei of Old Square Chambers and Kate Harrison and Harry Campbell of Harrison Grant LLP.

-ENDS-

For more information:

[email protected]

Notes to editor:

  1. A “worker” in EU law is defined as someone who does work under the direction of another in exchange for remuneration.  In UK law, this is usually covered by applying rights to “limb (b) workers”, a category of self-employed who are entitled to basic rights such as minimum wage and holiday pay. Tribunal and court rulings in the UK against “gig economy” companies such as Uber, City Sprint, Addison Lee, and Hermes have found that their workers fall under this category.
  2. Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs were found to be one of the professions with the highest death rates according to the ONS, with 65.3 deaths per 100,000.

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