Meanwhile the company, which has grown to be the largest standalone agency brand since being founded in 2012, recently issued a profit warning ahead of impending results as the UK housing boom tails off and the number of properties to sell slows.
Appointed to the top role in May 2019 with a noted track record of scaling up “disruptive” digital consumer brands, chief executive Vic Darvey has spent his time battling problems on all fronts.
In one of the latest overhauls under new management, Purplebricks abandoned its self-employed model and hired sales agents as permanent employees in August.
It was heralded as a move away from uncertainty of the self-employment and gig economy.
According to Darvey, the increased control over agents and more financial security for staff have improved Purplebricks’ outlook.
“We want greater control over our field agents and we want more control over talent. We now firmly believe we have a value proposition which is good,” he says.
“We want financial stability and security for our sales team and we believe that we can become a much higher performing team as an employed workforce.”
But the measures have not proven universally popular among staff.
The changes are now subject to a legal challenge from more than 100 estate agents arguing over loss of holiday pay and pensions contributions because they had effectively already worked in-house for Purplebricks. The case has gone to court, and is ongoing.
Darvey says he has sought advice and argues there is no legal basis for the suit brought by Contractors for Justice (C4J), which is hoping to mirror successful claims from workers against companies such as Uber.
Peter Fletcher, C4J spokesman, questions his assertion: “Under employment law the term ‘worker’ has been created. This term comes with certain rights and entitlements.
“Workers carried out their duties in a way that was comparable to that of an employee, they worked under elements of supervision, direction and control and did not, in our opinion, have full autonomy of their workload.
“With respect to Vic Darvey, we vehemently disagree and we will let the courts decide on the outcome of this case.”
As the case progressed, Purplebricks last month suffered a separate blow as Simplify, the parent of its associated law firm Premier Property Lawyers, was hacked. It wreaked havoc, leaving buyers in the middle of transactions unable to complete their purchases, some losing thousands of pounds of deposits in the process.
Darvey, who served as chief operating officer for four months before taking the helm, distanced himself from the law firm and refused to disclose how many customers were affected.