Is The Sharing Economy In The Sh…Again?

Deliveroo court case coming right up.

They wear uniforms, they use the same equipment sporting the same logo – but Deliveroo riders are not employees – oh no – they are freelancers.

So says the sharing economy, anyway – from Airbnb to Uber, and now Deliveroo, companies that slash the red tape and make it easy for workers or service providers to earn additional revenue streams have become some of the biggest and most influential enterprises on the planet – even while the authorities have been desperate to rein them in.

The latest case to come before the courts involves Deliveroo, the restaurant food delivery service founded by William Shu and Greg Orlowski that has raised $475m dollars since it was founded in 2012.

Law firm Leigh Day are bringing legal action against Deliveroo on behalf of approximately 200 courier riders, who believe they should be recognised as employees of the company, and not “gig economy” freelancers.

Being an employee as opposed to a freelancer conveys certain rights, such as sick and holiday pay, minimum wage and maternity or paternity leave.

Leigh Day representative Annie Powell says that “The idea that Deliveroo riders are self-employed contractors in business on their own account and that Deliveroo is a customer of each rider’s business is absurd”.

“Deliveroo riders carry out the sole function of Deliveroo — to deliver food and drink from restaurants to customers — and are tightly controlled by Deliveroo in what is clearly a dependent work relationship.”

But Deliveroo don’t see it like that – they say: “We are proud to offer flexible, well-paid work to over 15,000 self-employed UK riders, and receive over 10,000 new applications every week. Riders choose when and where to ride with us, and for how long, giving them the flexibility and freedom to work with us around their other commitments such as studying, running a small business or working for another company.”

So who is right? Well, Leigh Day have form here – last year they successfully sued Uber, arguing that the ride hailing firm must treat their drivers as “workers”, and not freelancers, but the term worker does not carry the same rights as employee. Workers are entitled to holiday pay and the minimum wage, but employees also get notice periods and redundancy pay.

Not only that, but Leigh Day are also suing Deliveroo on behalf of riders aged under 16 who fall below the minimum age requirement insisted on by Deliveroo, which Leigh Day says is unlawful.

Should Deliveroo lose the case, which is currently with Acas, the arbitration body, and will go to an employment tribunal if it is not resolved there – they will have a big bill on their hands, not just for legal fees, but also because they will then need to set extra money aside so it can provide its employee’s basic rights.

And who do you think will ultimately foot the bill for that, readers? That’s right, expect that delivery charge to rise sharply.

But then, were you comfortable with inexperienced cyclists and bikers navigating heavy London traffic so a lazy person can get their fix of Busaba Eathai or Red Dog Saloon?

This debate will run, and run, and run – and nobody knows how it ultimately play out. It’s even being debated in the House of Commons.

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