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Self-employment tribunal news flash

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Carl Lomas, Chairman of the Institute of Couriers, on this week's tribunal case

The first of four tribunals begin Tuesday Nov 22. These throw the spotlight on employment in the express logistics sector which already operates on all three platforms of employment. PAYE, self-employment or a mixture of the two. Explosion in e-retail will form a far greater challenge in the business model, at the heart of e-retail challenge is the perception of free delivery. The sector is likely to double in the next five years as e-retail numbers explode.

Value of delivery is often perceived as free and here lies the greatest challenge whether the sector is PAYE or self-employed.

Self-employment has historically been at the heart of the sector because of variations in a couriers’ day. Times to make even an individual delivery vary, dependant on traffic, route choice and even weather.  Experience of a courier dictates the route choice. Number of deliveries being made are often based on the geographic location being worked, urban, city or inner city predict large variation in the achievable income for the delivery which is seen as a service. In a plot circuit jobs are offered, open call circuit couriers call for each job they choose by their locality to the collection.

Many couriers face their day unknown to the challenges ahead, where they may start or finish or what mileage they may cover; this variability is driven by the sporadic bookings of the client and rarely fits ‘by the hour’ conventional shift pattern. It leaves them independent contractors delivering a service of final mile delivery.

Express final mile work is a micro business balancing skill to requirement of income that is flexible to the choice of hours delivered.  A courier offered a trip from Manchester to London near the end of their conventional day may choose to say no. Retailers have made great progress of food delivery using out of hours shift patterns but this remains rigidly organised and pre-booked. From Black Friday to Cyber Monday there is little prior knowledge of what will be booked.

David Lascelles, senior Logistics lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University.

I hope this will throw light, in the public arena, on the cost and capacity pressures facing the courier industry, and on the need to invest in a scarce, under valued resource - failure to do so will imperil the future growth prospects in the UK retail sector, which post-Brexit may be a vital engine of economic growth. Consumers and retailers need to look more closely at the importance of express logistics in keeping those parcels coming and facilitating the online retail business model.

IoC