Deliveroo should guarantee hourly pay rates of no less than the National Living Wage for all the time that people are logged in and available for work, a new report by MP Frank Field has recommended.
Last month Field launched an inquiry into pay, working conditions and basic rights at Deliveroo. The findings from this inquiry have now been published and present Deliveroo with a “map and compass” to help achieve its stated objective of striking a more just balance between flexibility and security for riders working with the company.
The latest report Delivering justice? finds that:
• Deliveroo’s workforce resembles a dual labour market which works well for some individuals and very poorly for others;
• Some Deliveroo riders earn as little as £2 or £3 an hour. Others, in even more extreme circumstances, earn nothing at all at certain times while those at the other end of the scale sometimes reach £20 an hour;
• Across the online food delivery sector of the gig economy as a whole, around 158,000 individuals report being paid less than the National Living Wage.
In seeking to help Deliveroo ‘radically’ change the nature of work in the gig economy, so that individuals can gain additional security without necessarily sacrificing any flexibility, the report recommends that:
• Those people requiring greater stability and certainty in their work should be able to look to their firm to offer this prospect after they have built up a record over a certain period of time. Deliveroo should commit itself to offer a form of worker status to those riders who form the backbone of its workforce;
• Workers who prize flexibility and only wish to work a smaller number of hours to suit their own needs, or wrap around other jobs, should be able to continue embracing the current model which enables Deliveroo to expand and contract its workforce when needed. However, the company should guarantee hourly pay rates of no less than the National Living Wage for all the time that people are logged in and available for work.
With a view to effecting a reform programme across the gig economy as a whole, the report recommends that:
• The Director of Labour Market Enforcement should conduct deep dives into those sectors offering platform jobs, and report on both levels of pay for different groups of workers as well as the reality of the self-employed status and the validity of each firm’s defence of that status, such as workers being able to substitute somebody else’s labour for their own and remain on the company’s books;
• The fines imposed by those agencies acting on behalf of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement should be ploughed back into building up a common workforce which, over time, takes on in a more proactive way the task of protecting workers’ rights in the modern economy.
The report also recommends that in order to “counter the cat and mouse game” of individuals having to take companies to employment tribunals, employment law should be reformed so that it is companies who have to prove beyond doubt they meet certain criteria showing their workforce to be self-employed.
Commenting on the findings, Field said: “The self-employed status and part-time nature of much gig economy work have given the labour market a flexibility that is still relatively new. Some of those workers who are keen to seize this opportunity view it as a short-term option while they develop their longer-term earning power – setting up their own business, starting on an artistic career and the like.
“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. 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 reform programme we outline will, I hope, be picked up by Deliveroo and the government as a means of both protecting this group while preserving the flexibility that so many riders have said they value.”
In response to this report, a Deliveroo spokesperson said: "Deliveroo is proud to offer flexible well-paid work where riders on average earn well over £10 an hour, well above the National Living Wage.
"In the modern economy people want to fit their work around their lives, not the other way round. This is why working with Deliveroo is so popular as it gives riders total flexibility. Riders choose how much they want to work and when, and are very clear they want to protect the flexibility that self-employment provides.
"Deliveroo believes more can be done to increase the security for riders while protecting their ability to be their own bosses, which is why we have introduced free, market-leading insurance for all, covering riders in case anything goes wrong.
"But we want to go further, and have called on the government to update employment rules to end the trade-off between flexibility and security and enable platforms to offer riders even more benefits without putting their employment status at risk."