Roos are not ‘workers’

deliveroo

Following the recent Employment Appeal Tribunal decision confirming that the Employment Tribunal had been entitled to hold that Uber drivers are workers (see previous article here), the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) has decided that Deliveroo riders are not workers.

In a particularly fabulous example of modern corporate tweeness, Deliveroo apparently refers to its riders as ‘Roos’, having previously called them ‘Roo-men’ and ‘Roo-women’.

A number of ‘Roos’ sought to unionise and the union applied for recognition. The CAC is the body that decides on those types of dispute.

One of the factors required for statutory recognition is that your members be workers.

So–no unions for the self-employed. No collective bargaining for you!

The decision itself is available here.

The TL;DR is that Deliveroo introduced new contracts shortly before the hearing which highlight the riders’ right to decline deliveries, to send someone else to do deliveries in their place and removed the requirement to wear Deliveroo branded gear.

The Committee accepted that there were examples of riders choosing to send a substitute to do a delivery for them.

They did point out that they couldn’t understand why Deliveroo would bother going through the training, vetting and selection process Deliveroo has for new riders if those riders are then able to decide to do no deliveries themselves and to substitute anyone they like instead.

The answer for Deliveroo was, that if Deliveroo was “willing to invest in training for its Riders, knowing that they could sub-contract whenever they wanted, then that was up to them. If they were willing to risk their Riders sub-contracting to unsuitable types who had not washed their hands in accordance with the training video resulting in the customers being unhappy with the person on the doorstep, then that was their choice.

So much for the vaunted efficiency of the free market…

Be that as it may, the Committee had accepted that Deliveroo genuinely did allow its riders to send substitutes and that riders did so.

On that basis (and on the basis of the other changes to the contract), the Committee held that riders were not ‘workers’ so the union would not be recognised.

The decision also includes some interesting claims made by the union about Deliveroo’s alleged attempts to discourage riders from joining the union or supporting the claim to be workers.

Amongst other things, it is alleged that Deliveroo provided information to its riders about how their taxes would be affected or how they would lose “flexibility” if they gained ‘worker’ status which was simply wrong.

It was also claimed that Deliveroo deliberately offered ‘surge’ pricing (whereby the rates for deliveries are higher than at other times) at times when the union was seeking to hold meetings with riders in an attempt to discourage riders from attending the meeting by hitting them in the wallet.

The Committee decided that given the evidence about the actual operation of the contract, they did not need to decide on those claims.

The decision shows that whether someone is a ‘worker’ or not depends almost entirely on the terms of the contract and how they are actually operated. Relatively small changes in how the business actually operates can make a huge difference in terms of the legal rights and obligations.

If you are concerned about your rights as a ‘gig economy’ worker or thinking of engaging workers on ‘zero-hour’ contracts, you should seek specialist advice.

Contact our employment team on 01227 813400 or fill in our simple enquiry form here.

Ian Pinder is a solicitor specializing in employment law.

IMPORTANT NOTICE
This literature is intended purely as an overview of this topic and does not constitute legal advice.

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