The debate surrounding the employment status of gig economy workers rumbles on after the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) recently ruled that Deliveroo couriers are correctly classed as self-employed contractors.
Earlier this year, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) asked Deliveroo to recognise it as a trades union representing the riders and to commence negotiations regarding their employment rights. When Deliveroo refused, the case was referred to the CAC, a government body overseeing collective disputes relating to UK labour. The IWGB argued that the food delivery company was depriving its couriers of basic employment protection, stating that their employment status was akin to that of a worker and as such they should be entitled to basic rights such as the National Minimum Wage and paid holiday.
A pivotal element in the CAC’s decision appeared to be a clause in Deliveroo’s employment contracts that granted riders the right to provide a “substitute” to perform a job for them. While not a certainty this is usually a strong indication that someone is self-employed and as a result is not entitled to collective bargaining rights. The CAC obviously agreed and concluded that the Deliveroo riders were self-employed.
Critics immediately slammed the verdict stating that Deliveroo intentionally manipulated the system by introducing the “substitution clause” into its contracts just 11 days prior to the hearing. However, a spokesperson for Deliveroo claimed in response that the company regularly reviews and revises contacts “to ensure that they reflect the reality of how riders work”. They further stated that their riders value the flexibility of being able to choose when and where they work and the company was pushing for employment laws to change to be able to offer the couriers sick pay and injury pay.
Problems with the self-employed and the gig economy
Many firms acting under the gig economy umbrella have come under fire recently due to claims of “sweat-shop” conditions their workers have to endure to earn a basic living. The mounting problems sparked a nationwide review of employment practices in the UK (Good Work: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices) and whilst this strongly recommended the retention of flexible working patterns, it highlighted that in many cases the flexibility was one sided and therefore a baseline of protection was required across all forms of employment.
The CAC verdict may have delivered a blow to Deliveroo riders who wish to be treated as employees, however all is not lost. A similar case involving Taxi firm Uber led to the Employment Appeal Tribunal finding in favour of the drivers and re-classifying them as workers.
If you have any concerns or questions regarding your employment status or rights please contact us today and speak to a member of our specialist employment law solicitors.
The Backhouse Solicitors Team
Tel: 01245 893400