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Deliveroo riders are not employees, Supreme Court rules

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Riders hired by Deliveroo do not have an employment relationship with the food delivery giant and cannot be represented by a trade union, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The judgement thwarts the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) latest attempt to secure collective bargaining rights for Deliveroo workers.

The case was brought after IWGB tried to negotiate pay and conditions with the company, but were refused in 2017 as the riders were not legally classed as workers.

It was dismissed by the Supreme Court following a series of appeals from lower courts.


Read more: Half of UK gig economy workers paid below minimum wage


In a statement on its website, IWGB said it will continue the legal battle: “As a union we cannot accept that thousands of riders should be working without key protections like the right to collective bargaining, and we will continue to make that case using all avenues available to us, including considering our options under international law.”

Judge Vivien Rose said Deliveroo riders are not classed as employees because they do not have specified hours, can work for rival companies and can appoint a substitute to work in their place. They are therefore not entitled to collective bargaining.

Kate Palka, lawyer at The Legal Director, said the ruling was surprising as it differs from another gig economy legal case around Uber, which classed Uber drivers as workers.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “This judgement is particularly interesting, as the result is entirely different from the earlier case against Uber brought by drivers working under a similar flexible model. 

“A key defining point that differentiated the self-employed Deliveroo drivers and influenced the Supreme Court’s decision was the right to provide a substitute rider to complete their orders, which actually happened in practice. This right belies the personal nature of a contract, a key indicator of an employment or worker contract.”


Read more: Just Eat employees forced to take up gig economy model


The right to appoint a substitute rider has been highlighted in recent headlines after an underaged worker died after having ‘rented’ a rider account.

Yvonne Gallagher, partner at law firm Harbottle and Lewis said this judgement will likely push other employers to include similar substitution powers for gig workers.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “This is a fundamentally important ruling for the gig economy, not just for Deliveroo.

“In establishing that the substitution clause works as a proof that riders cannot be considered workers, the Supreme Court ruling may give rise to other gig economy companies following the Deliveroo employment approach – where it fits their commercial model.”

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