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Deliveroo's hiring conditions to face scrutiny by MPs

Sarah Butler
A cyclist delivers food for Deliveroo in London. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Deliveroo is facing a parliamentary inquiry into the pay and conditions of its couriers in the latest challenge to the gig economy.

Frank Field MP, chairman of the work and pensions committee, which has already taken evidence from workers at Hermes, Uber, DPD and Parcelforce, will now gather evidence from Deliveroo riders over the next five weeks.

The inquiry will include a round table at which the takeaway delivery service’s workers will give oral evidence. Field will also be writing to Deliveroo to gather evidence about pay and conditions for its cyclists and moped riders.

“The weight of the evidence I’ve seen shows that bogus self-employment is being peddled by those who benefit so handsomely from the gig economy, to avoid the obligations they have to their workforce,” Field said. “I now wish to see if this is a partial view or whether it, sadly, represents what is going on in yet another company operating in the gig economy.”

Field’s move comes as Deliveroo faces at least two legal cases over the employment rights of its riders. On Friday, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which represents many gig economy workers, won the right to seek a judicial review of a ruling that found Deliveroo riders were not entitled to union representation.

In November the Central Arbitration Committee, which considers union recognition and collective bargaining cases, rejected an application by the IWGB to represent drivers in parts of north London.

It said thefirm’s riders were self-employed contractors because they had the right to allocate a substitute to do the work for them. The union had argued they were “workers” who enjoy limited rights including holiday pay and the right to collective bargaining.

The high court agreed that Deliveroo riders were self-employed contractors but said it was arguable the CAC should have considered the right of the couriers, and other workers in a similar position, to bargain collectively – as enshrined in article 11 of the European convention on human rights.

The union, which has raised £23,000 so far in crowdfunding for the legal costs of the case, is expected to launch the judicial review by the end of this year.

Next month the law firm Leigh Day will be leading an employment tribunal action demanding better employment rights including the minimum wage, sick pay and paid holiday for Deliveroo riders. The tribunal case involves at least 20 delivery riders who say they are employees and not, as the company argues, self-employed contractors.

The Leigh Day case can be brought as it will examine the historic contracts of Deliveroo riders rather than the latest contracts, which were updated by the company during the process of the CAC case.

It comes after the employment rights of workers in the gig economy were boosted after a heating engineer won his claim against Pimlico Plumbers at the supreme court last week, establishing that he was a worker and not self-employed.

The supreme court’s unanimous judgment is likely to set a significant precedent for a series of similar legal battles, including those involving the cab firms Uber and Addison Lee, which are in dispute with their drivers over employment status.

Pimlico Plumbers, which lost at every stage of the dispute, had appealed to the UK’s highest court, arguing that those it sent out to repair leaking pipes and malfunctioning dishwashers were self-employed and not “workers”.
Workers do not enjoy the full range of employment protection rights given to full-time staff but are entitled to many elements such as holiday pay.