European Court intervenes in rights of UK gig workers

News Article

A surprise landmark ruling could have significant repercussions for many workers who are categorised as ‘self-employed’ by their employers.

Window salesman, Conley King, took his fight for holiday back-pay all the way to the European Court of Justice, having previously lost his case for compensation at the UK Court of Appeal.

Mr King had worked as a commission-based salesman for The Sash Window Workshop between 1999 and 2012.

After he was dismissed from the firm, a UK tribunal ruled that Mr King should have been classified as a worker and was entitled to claim £27,000 in unpaid holiday pay.

The Sash Window Workshop argued that Mr King had worked “as a self-employed salesman under an arrangement that suited him”.

The European court was asked to decide whether EU law allowed Mr King to claim payment for the entire length of his employment and ruled that there was no time limit for his claim – a landmark decision which could open the floodgates for similar cases.

“An employer that does not allow a worker to exercise his right to paid annual leave must bear the consequences,” the court ruled.

The case now returns to the UK Court of Appeal for a further ruling.

The head of the IWGB trade union, Dr Moyer-Lee, said the “bombshell judgement” was a “game changer for the so-called ‘gig economy'”.

“The law is now recognising the massive unpaid debt of ‘gig economy’ companies to their workers and IWGB members will be coming to collect,” he said

Lara Murray, an Associate Solicitor and Employment Law expert with Palmers, said: “This judgment has taken many by surprise, particularly the European Court’s decision to allow claims to proceed with no time limit.

“The so-called gig economy has come in for a great deal of criticism in recent months and this latest ruling could open the door to similar claims from others who feel they have been unfairly categorised as ‘self-employed’ and have been denied the benefits and entitlements which employed workers are entitled to.”

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