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These firms are totally reliant on the gig economy

Many people are finding themselves taking on short-term contracts that can offer them greater flexibility over when and where they work

As the UK’s employment patterns change, more and more people are finding themselves taking on short-term contracts that can offer them greater flexibility over when and where they work; however, this can also lead to high pressure situations and low pay. Here we examine a number of different companies that have been the subject of much recent criticism over their use of self-employment terms.

Self-employment has become more popular in recent years as some workers try to get away from the stresses of a 9 to 5 routine. For some it is a beneficial approach; however, workers at the other end of the scale can be forced into accepting contracts that do not guarantee them a decent level of pay or job security as companies try to take advantage of the legalities surrounding the ‘gig economy’.

This gig economy has resulted in some businesses becoming totally reliant on these employment practices, providing them with a way to get out of many of the benefits provided to permanent staff, such as sick and holiday pay.


The meals courier business, which provides delivery services for well-known brands such as Wagamama and Gourmet Burger Kitchen, tried to change the contracts of its riders so that they were paid per delivery rather than per hour. Riders went on strike to oppose the changes, as it would have reduced their rate at quiet times, and the company has now said that workers do not have to move over to the new contract.


The app-based taxi firm faced an employment tribunal earlier this year when drivers argued that they should be categorised as employees and be entitled to benefits such as sick pay. The tribunal’s decision has yet to be announced.


A number of delivery companies, such as Hermes, have self-employed drivers who use their own vehicles to make deliveries for online retailers. This is a legal arrangement but gives them no entitlement to sick and holiday pay, pension contributions or the national living wage.

Cycle couriers

Those working for some of the main cycle courier businesses in London, including Excel, Addison Lee, City Sprint and eCourier, have taken the companies to tribunals to argue that they should be deemed employees rather than working on a self-employed basis. So far only the preliminary proceedings have been heard and the cases are due to begin in the autumn.

As the workforce in this country, and indeed across the globe, becomes more independent and less tied to salaried positions, it is vital that businesses rethink their working practices and adapt them to provide these workers with the benefits to which they should be entitled.

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