Hermes has disputed claims that it pays its couriers less than the minimum wage, after an investigation by The Guardian suggested some of the carrier’s self-employed workers earn as little as £5.50 an hour.

The article cites numerous Hermes couriers who earn between £5.50 and £7.30 per hour, although this does not include expenses such as fuel, insurance and vehicle maintenance, which can be claimed back.

Hermes described the investigation as “disingenuous” and said that on average, its network of 10,500 couriers earn £9.80 per hour after expenses, against a national living wage of £7.20.

The parcel carrier said: “Since the introduction of the National Living Wage in April 2016 we have been working hard to ensure that couriers get equal to or above the living wage threshold.

“This is despite the fact that there is no legal requirement for us to do so as they are self employed, a status that has been approved by HMRC.”

Hermes added that all of its couriers had received a 2.5% pay rise since the start of the year, and that three quarters of them had been with the company for more than three years.

It said: “We are proud to have an extremely committed and loyal network of couriers who enjoy their work and delivery high standards of service in return for good rates of pay.”

The Guardian article also suggested some Hermes couriers chose to work when ill for fear of losing their parcel rounds.

The carrier responded to this by saying that “the vast majority of couriers have substitutes that they use to cover rounds during sickness and holidays”, and added that managers recruited cover couriers where necessary.

Following the publication of the article, the chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee called on new prime minister Theresa May to address the HMRC criteria that makes it legal for self-employed workers to earn less than the minimum wage, as they are not technically employees.

Frank Field MP said the criteria was “undermining government policy which is to raise wages from the bottom”.