Further shocking revelations regarding the employment methods of Britain’s gig economy, has shown that self-employed UK couriers who deliver goods on behalf of the firm DPD are being made to pay a fee of £150 for each working day they miss due to illness.
DPD is a renowned company that counts many of Britain’s most popular retailers among its clients, including Amazon, ASOS, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and River Island.
Workers of the firm are speaking out over an unfair system that forces them to work even when they are sick, unless DPD sanctioned cover can be arranged by the worker for the time spent absent.
DPD is part of the global parcel service Geopost, which has a workforce of around 5,000 couriers; many of whom are self-employed and therefore only receive payment when available to work.
Speaking to the Guardian, a worker who choose to remain anonymous said:
‘I said I couldn’t come in because I was too sick and it wouldn’t have been safe for me to drive. He said: ‘Sorry, I have to charge you.’
The company insists the £150 fee reflects the ‘liquidated damages’ accrues during the loss of a day’s work, and that HM Revenue & Customs approved the scheme
DPD amassed a profit of £100m during 2015 and is expected to grow further as online shopping increases in popularity.
The fee system at DPD has been its standard practice for some time, but is only now being widely documented. This controversy of the contract follows months of tribunal hearings in which other gig economy businesses, such as Uber, Deliveroo and City Sprint, have been forced to grant better working rights to their self-employed staff.
One of the most vocal critics of the scheme is Frank Field, chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions committee, who said the following:
“The gig economy is producing wave after wave of evidence on the grim reality of life at the bottom of Britain’s labour market. A group of companies now controls the working lives of an unknown number of people, and yet evades its own responsibilities as employers and taxpayers by labelling those people as self-employed’.
The average DPD courier is paid £200 per day and will not receive payment for the time absent, therefore when combined with the fee, each daily loss totals £350.
A spokesman for DPD defended the company’s decision to collect a fee from its absent workers:
“Franchisees are contracted to provide a service. If they fail to do so, DPD have to fulfil that service and therefore reserve the right to charge the franchisee for the costs involved in doing so.”
This fee system is believed to have been in operation for several years at DPD but is only now being scrutinised. It also stresses how its couriers receive many benefits from the arrangement, including the right to an average annual wage of £37,000 after a year of service.
Like many other gig economy employers, it’s highly likely DPD will experience further analysis of its contracts to determine whether self-employment rights are being compromised, especially as so many reputable retailers rely on the company for deliveries.