The boss of Hermes UK has said he is both proud and excited about a ground-breaking deal with the GMB union, which will give self-employed couriers access to holiday pay as well as guaranteed earnings.

Martin de Lange, CEO of Hermes UK, told MT that it was personally important to him that the operator did and was seen to be doing the right by its couriers.

“I care about doing the right thing. The couriers have been at the heart of this, they have helped design it, but it is fully backed by a union too,” he said.

In concert with the GMB, which was locked in legal battle with Hermes in regards employment rights within the so called “gig economy” throughout last year, self-employed couriers at the firm will from the third quarter be able to opt in to become "self-employed plus".

This status provides a number of benefits such as holiday pay (pro-rata up to 28 days), and individually negotiated pay rates that allow couriers to earn at least £8.55 per hour over the year.

In addition, self-employed plus couriers will benefit from full GMB representation.

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It is an opt-in model and will not affect those couriers who wish to retain their current form of self-employed status.

Hermes has approaching 15,000 self-employed couriers working for it off-peak and as many as 20,000 at peak. The company believes around 20% to 30% of those couriers will sign up to the self-employed plus offer.

The move will be paid for partly out of revenue generated through growth at the expanding business and also by trimming "the bottom line".

However, de Lange sees it as a vital investment. “We were at risk of being seen as something bad, which was totally not the case. Some people working for Hermes simply wouldn’t have a job otherwise [due to other commitments],” he said.

martijn de lange

Hermes CEO Martijn de Lange

“The self-employed model creates opportunity. What we have done with this is address the criticism that it doesn’t provide security. We now have the best of both worlds,” he added.

Hermes is investing in its customer services, its infrastructure with new hubs and its IT, so this commitment to its self-employed couriers is part of that trend that saw the operator grow 15% last year, de Lange said.

“We are popular as we are good to work for and I want to make sure we retain people,” he added.

GMB backs self-employed plus

Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, said of the deal: “Hermes is leading the way, looking after the people who work for you on the ground day in, day out, is not only good for business but the right thing to do.

“As a result of our ground-breaking agreement, couriers will have a real voice in their workplace as well as the right to holiday pay and guaranteed pay, something GMB Union has long been campaigning for on behalf of our members.

“Full credit to Hermes. They’re showing that the gig economy doesn’t have to be an exploitative economy and we look forward to working with them through this ground-breaking agreement.

“Other employers should take notice, this is how it’s done.”