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Deliveroo riders are not employees, Supreme Court rules

Deliveroo employees Image credit: Deliveroo

Deliveroo riders are not considered employees and therefore not entitled to benefits and collective bargaining from trade unions, according to a UK Supreme Court decision.

The decision has concluded a years-long legal battle championed by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which represents members of the gig economy.

The Supreme Court agreed in a unanimous decision on Tuesday that Deliveroo drivers cannot be classified as employees as they are “free to reject offers of work, to make themselves unavailable and to undertake work for competitors”.

“Once again, these features are fundamentally inconsistent with any notion of an employment relationship,” the court said.

IWGB had argued that Deliveroo couriers should be classified as workers instead of independent contractors, which would entitle them to benefits such as sick leave, holiday pay and minimum wage.

Deliveroo has always disputed this classification, however, it did agree last year to pay its riders minimum wage for time spent on deliveries.

The union also challenged the London-listed firm in court over the denial of collective bargaining rights.

Deliveroo described the ruling as a “positive judgment” and said that “thousands apply each week to work with Deliveroo because they want to be able to decide for themselves when, where and whether to work”.

“We are proud to be able to offer tens of thousands of riders this flexibility alongside the security of free insurance, sickness coverage, support for new parents and a unique union recognition agreement.”

IWGB said: “We cannot accept that thousands of riders should be working without key protections…and we will continue to make that case using all avenues available to us.”

In 2021, the UK Supreme Court ruled that Uber would have to classify its drivers as employees in a case that draws parallels between the two app-based delivery and ride-hailing platforms.

Last year, Uber issued a statement calling on its rivals in the ride-hailing space to grant drivers the same benefits that it was forced to offer.

“It is high time other operators followed suit, to ensure drivers have access to a pension and all other protections whichever platform they choose to drive on,” said an Uber spokesperson at the time.