Don’t let vehicle claims drive you round the bend

Don’t let vehicle claims drive you round the bend

21st May 2024 | Hudson Contract

Employment tribunal claims risk driving the industry around the bend, so lucky for our clients that Hudson's role is to help construction firms keep the wheels on track.

Paying 40,000 subbies each week for more than 2,000 clients, it stands to reason there are thousands of Hudson operatives on the road in client-owned vehicles – the vast majority being driven safely and sensibly. For decades we have made sure this is not a tax problem or an indication of employed status, but recently we have had to step in when things have gone wrong.  

In one recent case dealt with by Hudson, a self-employed subcontractor took one of his client’s vans to the pub, had a few too many drinks and drove into a ditch after last orders. The client told him he would have to contribute to the recovery and repair costs from his previous week’s earnings. The subbie denied liability, refused to pay and instead raised a claim at employment tribunal when his payment was withheld.

If not using Hudson, the usual course of action would be for the client to contact an employment lawyer for help responding to the claim and representation. Such a conversation would reveal the likely costs of £5,000 to £10,000 in legal fees that may not be recoverable even if the case was successful.

Instead, the client called Hudson’s compliance director Dan Davies into action. Dan rang the subbie involved and pointed out the facts of the matter; the presence of witnesses, the proximity of the ditch to his home address on the direct route from the pub, and most importantly that he was self-employed under contract to Hudson so the tribunal would initially be him against us. The individual realised the error of his ways and promptly withdrew his claim. While he parted company with the client he did chip in for the damage and thankfully, nobody was hurt by his actions.

Inspired by too many episodes of Judge Rinder

In another case concluded earlier this year, a project manager running a small site up in the North West for an electrical contractor client of Hudson, was relieved of his duties when it was clear his heart was not in the job and the client’s customer started awarding work elsewhere. 

In retaliation, he hid a company hire car in the most expensive car park he could find and refused to say where it was, running up considerable costs. He then took exception to his last payment being swallowed up to pay for it.

Seemingly inspired by too many episodes of Judge Rinder, he started sending longwinded legalistic emails to the client and Hudson, saying we couldn’t prove he had hidden the car and any such allegation was slander. He threatened every form of legal action for every crime and breach of contract and employment law he could think of. The responses from Hudson were much shorter and to the point. 

To cut a long story short, again a claim was raised and then dropped at employment tribunal with no cost incurred by the client.

Such a claim brings Hudson into play

In the most recent case we have just concluded, a groundworker launched an employment tribunal claim against one of Hudson’s civil engineering clients in the Midlands, before even getting behind the wheel of one of their vans. The subbie alleged he was subject to less than favourable treatment because of his race since he didn’t get a van. With 150 vans between 850 Hudson operatives, there were lots of sensible reasons he did not have use of a van; race was of course was not the reason.

In a pre-hearing review, the judge spent two days examining in depth the individual’s employment status and his relationship with Hudson and the client. She concluded he was a self-employed independent contractor, not an employee or worker, and dismissed his claim. 

To help clients avoid the pitfalls associated with managing vehicle fleets, Hudson drafts road-worthy policies based on individual circumstances and assists with enforcement. 

If the relationship with a subbie sours because of the misuse or lack of use of a vehicle, and they insist on taking their case to an employment tribunal, they must first claim that they are an employee or a worker. Whoever their gripe is with, such a claim brings Hudson into play as it is the Hudson contract they must overcome. 

Ian Anfield, managing director of Hudson, said: “All this goes to show why our procedures and site audits are vitally important. When other payroll providers say they can pay anybody without any complications, just like they do, we know it’s not true.” 

The case number for Hudson’s latest tribunal victory: 6000924/2023

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