Deliveroo has recently been on the receiving end of criticism from parliament, having been mentioned in discussions that disparage the so-called ‘gig economy’ that has become prevalent in the UK over recent years.
It appears that such public criticism has caused Deliveroo to act, recently removing a clause that prevented its couriers challenging their status as self-employed rather than employed at a tribunal.
What this signifies is not yet clear. Whilst the clause appears to have been legally unenforceable in any event, its inclusion in a contract would be influential on an individual.
Does its removal suggest that firms that employ workers on such terms are willing to change the way they operate in the labour market, or is it simply a willingness to pay lip service to government demands?
The gig economy describes a workforce that largely works on short-term contracts or on a job-by-job basis. This usually means that workers are not provided with a salary and thus financial security or any other legal protections that employees have by virtue of their employment contract.
Deliveroo, a takeaway delivery service, has additionally reduced its contracts to four pages in length and is now legally not entitled to request that workers work exclusively for them, which is a common feature of employment contracts.
Deliveroo states that its new contract with its couriers aims to make clear the benefits of working for the company – they can work flexibly, ensuring that their work fits around their life rather than the other way around.
The criticism of firms such as Deliveroo that take on workers on such terms is that the work they offer is hugely unstable. Workers may not be able to take up enough work to ensure that they earn sufficient money, as the work may arrive at unsuitable times and not be available when the worker can take it on.
Workers who are not classed as employees have no redundancy rights and no right to claim for unfair or wrongful dismissal; for example, they are unable to bring up issues of discrimination.
As a result, firms such as Deliveroo that take on workers whilst providing no security to these individuals and gaining from all their hard work have received an increased level of criticism.
The flexible working that Deliveroo is keen to emphasise as a bonus of working for the firm appears to lose its gloss when considered in light of the rapidity with which work and thus income can be removed.
Hopefully its recent efforts regarding exclusivity and acceptance of the employment tribunal’s authority may point to a change in approach.
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