UK MPs have branded the self-employment contracts used by London-based firm Deliveroo and stateside tech giants Uber and Amazon as “unintelligible”.
Deliveroo, which has raised a staggering $474.59m to date, came under fire after the parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee criticised a clause in its contracts with couriers, which required them to “agree that they are not workers”.
Additionally, the contract also requested couriers “agree not to challenge their self-employed status in court”.
According to a statement released by the Committee, Deliveroo first said in oral evidence in February that this clause would disappear, and a letter now sent to the Committee says the firm is committed to removing it “within the coming weeks”.
A spokesperson from Deliveroo told Tech City News: “As outlined to the Work and Pensions Select Committee, we are always revising our supplier agreement to ensure it reflects how we work with riders in practice.
“That is why we are removing the clause discussed, which has never been enforced, in the coming weeks. As a British business, we’re proud to offer well-paid flexible work to 15,000 riders across the UK and we’re committed to ensuring that, as the company continues to grow riders, continue to benefit from that growth,” the spokesperson added.
Up to the government
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, William Shu, the founder of Deliveroo, blamed current legislation for the fact his company does not offer its couriers certain rights including sick and holiday pay.
Shu told the publication he would like to offer the company’s drivers additional rights, but claimed he couldn’t, as doing so would change their status in the eyes of the law and would pose a risk to the flexibility they rely upon to do their job.
Shu went on to note that it was “up to the government”, and not Deliveroo, to come up with “21st century legislation that fits a 21st century economy and what people from the 21st century want”.
“The important thing to note is that the government needs to define that. We can work with the government to do that, but us trying to work that out on our own when the legislation is not clear puts us in a very difficult position,” he claimed.
Frank Field MP, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee noted that Deliveroo’s contract contained the “egregious clause” about not challenging the official designation of ‘self employed’. However, he added that the way the company works “looks in most ways an awful lot like being employed”.
“These companies parade the “flexibility” their model offers to drivers, but it seems the only real flexibility is enjoyed by the companies themselves. It does seem a marvellous business model if you can get away with it,” he noted.
The news follows a story published by the Guardian, which highlighted how managers at Deliveroo have been given a list of dos and don’ts establishing how to talk to couriers.
According to the publication, the six-page document contains terms seemingly designed to fend off claims that they are employees.
Deliveroo says its couriers should always be referred to as “independent suppliers”, rather than as employees, workers, staff or team members.
This, however, is not the first time Deliveroo has raised controversy with regards to the definition of its workers.
In November last year, the firm made headlines after some of its riders demanded unionisation and workers’ rights.
The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which represented riders in North London, sent a letter Will Shu, requesting a ‘voluntary recognition agreement’, which would enable the union to bargain on behalf of the couriers and would require the tech company to negotiate workers conditions with them.
However, it hasn’t all been bad press for Deliveroo. Earlier this year, the company announced it would create more than 300 tech jobs in London when it opens its new global headquarters in the capital.