Firms insist many individuals appreciate the gig-economy

Senior figures at two of Britain’s biggest delivery firms have made a staunch defence of the employment models which are part and parcel of their respective businesses.

Carole Woodhead, the boss of Hermes, and Patrick Gallagher, who runs City Sprint, have denied suggestions that many of those employed in the so-called “gig economy” had only taken jobs out of desperation.

Ms Woodhead said last week that many couriers welcomed the flexibility of being self-employed, while Mr Gallagher argued it was self-evident that those who did deliveries for his business would hand in their notice if they were badly treated.

The pair, who have been at the forefront of recent debate about increasingly common models of work, were invited to speak at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference last week.

One member of the audience alleged that his niece had been “horribly exploited” by Hermes and suggested that many who took jobs didn’t feel like they had a choice because of financial pressures.

Ms Woodhead said: “We know that most of our couriers do not want to be employed. They like the flexibility of being self-employed.

“They like the ability to choose – the number of rounds they do, the number of hours they work.

“It would be painfully wrong if there [were] to be changes in the legislation which meant a large number of those people were not able to access the type of flexible labour market they depend upon.”

Mr Gallagher added: “It’s never been more competitive…I have to ensure they are treated fairly and paid well. If I don’t the business is over. It’s not about me, it’s about them.”