Parcel delivery drivers are calling foul, after being ‘fined’ for taking time off sick.
Self-employed owner drivers working for both Parcelforce and DPD have clauses in their contracts which allow the parent companies to charge some drivers who take time off for illness.
Around a quarter of Parcelforce’s 3,000 couriers are classed as self-employed owner-drivers. As such, they are paid per delivery and must cover the cost of their own vehicle, fuel, insurance and even uniform. It has now been revealed that some owner-drivers who are off sick, but cannot find cover for their route, have to pay Parcelforce £250 per day missed.
Parcel delivery rival, DPD, have come in for similar criticism after it was discovered they charge their self-employed drivers £150 for a day’s sickness.
Both companies claim that the penalty is charged in order to cover the cost of finding a replacement courier.
For the self-employed drivers, not only do they miss out on a day’s earnings but, with the added penalty, some are losing an estimated £450 for taking a day off sick.
In a statement responding to the criticisms, Parcelforce said “As self-employed subcontractors, they are contracted to ensure the services are provided but not to provide them personally.
“Many owner-drivers do not actually do the route themselves, but employ someone to do it for them. Self-employed owner-drivers agree to cover the cost of fulfilling their routes if they are unable to do it themselves and are unable to provide cover. Parcelforce ensures that collections and deliveries are carried out and that customer service levels are met.”
Frank Field MP, Chair of the House of Commons work and pensions committee, said: “It almost looks as though some companies are now engaged in a bidding war, to see who can slap the biggest penalty on workers who are sick.
“Again it goes to show how badly we need a national minimum level of decency to be enforced in the gig economy, alongside a national living wage, so that workers aren’t ripped off by the companies they work with.”
Lara Murray, an Associate Solicitor and employment law expert with Palmers, said: “Self-employed contract work suits many people because it provides flexible working, allowing individuals to choose when they work and how much they agree to take on, so that they can fit it around family or other commitments.
“The problems we are seeing with so called ‘gig economy’ workers are arising because some companies are seeking to impose a minimum number of hours, set shifts or other obligations, which many feel is contrary to the definition of a self-employed contract. It is important for self-employed workers to carefully read the terms of any contract they are asked to sign, particularly in terms of fulfilment and penalties for non-completion.
“Any self-employed contractor who feels that they are being unfairly dealt with, should seek legal advice without delay.”
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