Amazon is facing an employment claim from lawyers who sday the online giant could owe casual delivery drivers up to £140m in compensation, opening up a new front in the battle over the gig economy.
At least 3,000 drivers could be entitled to an average of £10,500 compensation for each year they have delivered for the company, Leigh Day claims.
The legal firm announced it is launching a group claim on behalf of drivers making deliveries through Amazon’s “Delivery Service Partners” programme, who are classified as self-employed, meaning they do not have an employment contract and are not entitled to holiday pay and the minimum wage.
But Leigh Day argues that drivers are entitled to these rights because of the way Amazon dictates drivers’ work and how they fit into Amazon’s business.
“From what we have heard from our clients it appears that Amazon is short-changing drivers making deliveries on their behalf,” said Kate Robinson, an employment solicitor at Leigh Day.
“This is disgraceful behaviour from a company that makes billions of pounds a year. Drivers delivering for Amazon have to work set shifts and book time off, yet Amazon claim they are self-employed.
The firm, which previously won a landmark employment rights case on behalf of Uber drivers, is currently representing two drivers and is looking for others to join the legal action. At least 31 drivers contacted the firm on Wednesday, a spokesperson told The Independent.
Drivers told Leigh Day that they are given estimated timings between deliveries via an app, which they have to meet, and are not able to bring parcels back to the depot so must use extra fuel to redeliver at the end of the day.
When combined with charges for van rental, fuel, and insurance, this can leave them with meagre earnings, the law firm said.
Amazon disputed many of the firm’s claims, arguing that drivers are paid at least £120 per day and receive compensation for their fuel costs, are not contacted directly by Amazon, and have the option of whether or not to follow the suggested route on its app, which does provide estimated timings for journeys.
“We're hugely proud of the drivers who work with our partners across the country, getting our customers what they want, when they want, wherever they are,” an Amazon spokesperson said.
“We are committed to ensuring these drivers are fairly compensated by the delivery companies they work with and are treated with respect, and this is reflected by the positive feedback we hear from drivers every day.”
In addition to Amazon, Leigh Day is bringing similar claims against Uber, Addison Lee, delivery company Stuart and used vehicle marketplace BCA. It follows a Supreme Court ruling in February that Uber drivers must be treated as workers, not self-employed contractors, following a six-year legal battle.
Ms Robinson added: “Paying out compensation of £140m sounds like a large bill to foot, but for a company that turned a profit of £5.8bn in the first three months of 2021, it’s a drop in the ocean.
“For drivers on the other hand, earning at least National Minimum Wage, getting holiday pay and being under a proper employment contract could be life changing.”
Additional reporting by PA