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Deliveroo issues guidance on how to refer to riders

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The Guardian newspaper has reported that food delivery Company Deliveroo has issued guidance to their Managers on how Deliveroo riders should be referred to.  In what is apparently a six page document which has been seen by the Guardian newspaper, Managers at the Company have been provided with a checklist of do’s and don’ts when talking about their riders. 

Managers are advised that riders should always be referred to as ‘independent suppliers’, rather than other terms which may support the idea that they are employees, such as workers, employees, staff or team-members.  The document apparently provides example sentences which have been carefully constructed defining how and how not to describe working practices.  Examples include using terms such as “on boarding” at a “supply centre” instead of referring to “recruitment” of riders at a “recruitment centre”.  Another example is the suggestion that Managers should talk about their riders’ “availability” rather than refer to “shifts”. In a further example, it suggests that Managers should not say to riders “You did not attend a shift” but rather “You were unavailable to accept orders at a previously agreed time.” Riders’ outfits which are adorned with Company branding are also not to be described as “uniform”, but should be refers to as “kit” or “equipment”.

This document has arisen after numerous workers engaged with various Companies within what has become known as the “gig-economy” have taken legal action against the Company’s they work for claiming their employment status is not that of a genuinely self-employed person, but rather that of an employee or a worker.  The employment status of these individuals has a significant impact on their entitlements, with employees and workers enjoying significantly more rights than self-employed contractors, including the minimum wage, holidays and sick pay.

Danielle Lister, Partner and Head of Employment Law at Chattertons comments:

“This is an interesting response by the Company to the significant number of individuals who are claiming that they are not genuinely self-employed, and the ongoing risk to the business of this issue continuing to arise in the future.  Some may see this as a rather contrived attempt to paint a picture of riders and their employment status that does not necessarily reflect the situation on the ground. 

Ultimately, encouraging a change in the language within the business is unlikely to persuade a Tribunal that riders are or are not genuinely self-employed; this issue will largely come down to what happens in reality, for example how these individuals actually work on a day to day basis.  In fact, the very fact that the Company has issued such a document to its staff would in itself seem to suggest that there is ambiguity about the employment status of these riders.  At worst for the Company, this could be seen as an intentional attempt to create a façade with regards to working practices to mask the reality of the situation in view of impending litigation.”

Certainly, this further development shows the issue is clearly not going away for Deliveroo, nor for other similar business who operate within a “gig-economy” environment.  We will continue to watch with interest how this case and others similar to it develop, given the significant impact the final outcome could have on the issue of employment status.

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