24 July 2018
Couriers working for Deliveroo earn as little as £2 per hour and sometimes don’t get paid at all for the tasks they undertake, a new report from MP Frank Field has found.
His inquiry into the ‘gig’ employer was launched last month and sought to investigate whether the pattern of “bogus self-employment … being peddled by those who benefit so handsomely from the gig economy, to avoid the obligations they have to their workforce” applies to Deliveroo as it did to previous subjects of the MP’s inquiries, including Uber, Parcelforce, DPD and Hermes.
In a report authored by Field and his colleague Andrew Forsey today, it was revealed that some Deliveroo workers earn £2 of £3 per an hour, while others go through periods of earning nothing at all.
Around 158,000 individuals working in the online food delivery sector through ‘gig’ employers say they are paid less than the National Living Wage.
Field and Forsey observed that “parts of Deliveroo’s current employment model resemble the system of casual labour that existed in Britain’s docks and ports a century ago, with individuals taking on a series of risks without necessarily being rewarded adequately for doing so”.
The authors also found that there were workers who benefited from the ‘gig economy’ model, with some earning up to £20 per hour and others taking advantage of the casual nature of the job to prop up a burgeoning artistic career or provide an income while they set up their own business.
“But for an unknown number of workers, these imposed self-employment opportunities are all there is on offer, even though their need is for stable work for at least the level of the National Living Wage,” Field said.
“It is this group that we are concerned about in this report and have been in each previous report we have published on the gig economy.”
The report proposed that Deliveroo offer ‘worker’ status to those riders who work consistent and regular hours for the company, while allowing others to continue taking jobs here and there to suit them. Regardless of who logs on, however, all couriers should receive an hourly rate of pay that does not fall below the National Living Wage for as long as they are using the app and available for work.
Field and Forsey also made broader recommendations for government, including that the Director of Labour Market Enforcement should investigate and report on the levels of pay and reality of working for different groups in the ‘gig’ economy. Fines imposed by government agencies should be used to create a “common workforce” which proactively protects workers’ rights, including through random checks and “deep dive exercises”. Further, the onus should be put on companies to prove “beyond doubt” that their workforce is self-employed in tribunal cases, rather than the current system where claimants are forced to prove that they are ‘workers’.
The Institute of Employment Rights agrees that the presumption should be flipped so that every person is a default ‘worker’ unless proven to be self-employed, but recommend reforms go further than those put forth by Field and Forsey.
Rather than create even more fragmentation in the workforce, as the authors’ proposals suggest, we propose scrapping the three-tier employment status framework and replacing it with a universal status of ‘worker’, which provides all people in employment with the full suite of workers’ rights from Day One.
In order to proactively enforce these laws, we recommend that an independent Labour Inspectorate is formed, with the power to enter workforces and issues cease and desist notices. Further, trade unions should be provided with stronger rights to protect their members and to negotiate fair pay and conditions for all workers across entire sectors, regardless of whether they are casually employed, fully employed, or whether or not they are a member of a trade union.
These are just some of the recommendations made in our Manifesto for Labour Law – 25 recommendations for reform, which have been adopted by the Labour Party as a blueprint for future employment law.