45 Deliveroo riders are taking legal action against the company over their employment status

A cyclist rides a bicycle as he delivers a food order for Deliveroo, an example of the emergence of what is known as the 'gig economy', in Paris, France, April 7, 2017. Picture taken April 7, 2017.

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A cyclist rides a bicycle as he delivers a food order for Deliveroo, an example of the emergence of what is known as the ‘gig economy’, in Paris, France, April 7, 2017. Picture taken April 7, 2017.
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REUTERS/Charles Platiau

    Deliveroo is being taken to a tribunal by 45 couriers over their employment status. Law firm Leigh Day argues they should be classified as employees and given benefits like holiday pay. Deliveroo says it would like to offer more security to riders but is constrained by the law.

LONDON – Nearly four dozen Deliveroo couriers are taking legal action against the food delivery firm in an attempt to obtain employment rights like a guaranteed minimum wage and holiday pay.

A preliminary hearing for the case will be heard at an employment tribunal in London on November 2, and is the latest example of gig economy companies facing legal challenges over their business models in Britain.

Deliveroo riders, tasked with delivering meals from restaurants for the company, are classified as self-employed and free to choose their own hours via an app. This gives them flexibility – but also means they don’t have the same rights as traditional employees like sick pay or a guaranteed minimum wage.

The 45 riders in the case are being represented by Leigh Day, which also brought a successful case against Uber in the UK, arguing that the ride-hailing company’s self-employed drivers should also be entitled to additional rights. (Uber is now appealing.)

A Deliveroo courier.

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A Deliveroo courier.
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REUTERS/Charles Platiau

In a statement, a Deliveroo spokesperson defended its model, arguing that its riders value flexibility and the law means that it can’t currently offer greater security to those that want it.

“Deliveroo offers flexible well-paid work to thousands of riders across the UK. Riders make over £9.50 an hour with us on average, significantly more than the national living wage,” they said.

“With over 10,000 applications each week, it’s clear that the flexible working that is inherent to self-employment is hugely popular.

They added: “The vast majority of riders want to be self-employed as they value flexible working above all else. Should riders be re-classified, the flexibility they value would be lost.”

Leigh Day solicitor Annie Powell claimed, however, that some Deliveroo couriers are paid below the minimum wage and that in reality they should be classified as employees.

“At the moment, Deliveroo riders are given no employment protection whatsoever: if they’re involved in an accident when they work, they receive no sick pay; if they want to take time off, they are given no holiday pay, and they are not guaranteed the National Minimum Wage,” she said in a statement.

“From the evidence we have seen, some of our clients have been paid significantly below the National Minimum Wage, with shortfalls ranging from tens of pounds to hundreds of pounds below the legal minimum … All of the riders we represent in this claim work shifts and are paid by the hour. It is not the case, as Deliveroo has claimed, that they can log in and work whenever they want. Our argument is that these riders are controlled, managed and disciplined by Deliveroo and that they clearly do not carry out their own delivery businesses, as Deliveroo argues.””