Michael Newman, a partner at law firm Leigh Day, says a contractual ban on Deliveroo riders taking the firm to court over their employment status is there to scare workers and is likely to be enforceable. The clause states that cyclists working for the firm cannot take the firm to an employment tribunal over their employment status – if they do, they will be liable for all the company’s costs.
The lawyer is currently representing a group of Uber taxi drivers in their ongoing fight to be recognised as employees rather than self-employed, with the added benefits employment brings. The Deliveroo cyclists, who deliver restaurant meals to customers’ homes on a self-employed basis, are being forced to sign contracts containing a clause banning them from similar action to the Uber drivers. Newman feels that the clause is designed simply to scare workers from taking action and would probably be unenforceable if taken to court.
Cyclists currently earn around £7 an hour to deliver meals to clients but have to pay for their own phone and transport. As self-employed workers, they are also responsible for their own national insurance contributions.
Bosses at Deliveroo state that the business model enables 5,000 riders around the country to enjoy a flexible way of working that they can fit in around other commitments, such as studying or bringing up a family, and that the company worked with reputable legal teams to draw up its contracts.
Deliveroo is just one of the employers recently under fire for what is seen by many as unfair treatment of self-employed workers, who have fewer rights as a result of their self-employed status.
The Uber drivers taking the firm to court are arguing they are in reality employed by the firm and should therefore be entitled to the living wage in addition to benefits such as sick pay and pensions. Uber, however, argues that it is not a transport provider but a technology company and that the drivers are partners rather than employees.
Other companies in the firing line include parcel business Hermes, where some self-employed workers claim to earn just £5.50 per hour at certain times – way below the living wage. Hermes refutes the claims, saying it pays couriers an average of £9.80 per hour.
This debate will no doubt continue to rage for some time, but one thing is clear – self-employed workers need to be careful to understand the terms under which they are being taken on.
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