Parcelforce, who provide courier services for Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and Hamleys, fine sick couriers £250 if they cannot find cover, it has emerged.
Last week, The Guardian found that multinational company DPD charges its couriers £150 in similar circumstances.
However, Parcelforce’s fines are enforced at management’s discretion – and they apply to owner-drivers, who make up approximately 25% of the Royal Mail-owned business’ workforce, who also pay for their own vehicle, fuel, insurance and uniform, as well as only being paid per delivery.
A courier who, according to The Guardian, asked not to be named for fear of being blacklisted, said: “We all hate it. My colleague handed in his notice after being told he was being fined £750 for being off sick for three days.
“If we’re off sick, we don’t get any payment at all but we still have the same costs, apart from fuel.
“We have to pay for the van and insurance and there is also the threat hanging over us that if we don’t cover our contracted area, they say we have to cover their costs in bringing in agency drivers to cover the work that we don’t do. We then get charged £250 a day.
“The manager suggested to me that maybe five or six of us should get together and employ someone off our own back to cover our runs if we’re off sick.”
Parcelforce replied to the accusations in a statement: “At Parcelforce, around 75% of drivers are employees . . . the remaining 25% [are] owner-drivers who are contracted on a self-employment basis. Self-employed owner-drivers working with Parcelforce can expect average earnings from £45,000 to £70,000 per annum.
“As self-employed subcontractors, they are contracted to ensure the services are provided but not to provide them personally.
“Self-employed owner-drivers agree to cover the cost of fulfilling their routes if they are unable to do it themselves and are unable to provide cover. Parcelforce ensures that collections and deliveries are carried out and that customer service levels are met.”