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Union Defeats Deliveroo in High Court Employment Rights Case

Challenge by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain successful in first stage of overturning ruling on self-employment status of delivery giant’s riders

UK Govt Promises Overhaul Of Workers Rights to Protect Those In Gig Economy Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Delivery giant Deliveroo has been defeated in the High Court by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) — in what is the first stage of overturning a ruling regarding gig economy employment rights.

Mrs Justice Simler of the High Court gave IWGB permission to seek a judicial review of a ruling made by the Central Arbitration Commission in November of last year, but the scope of that review will be limited to the interpretation of U.K. law and the rights of certain groups of self-employed workers to unionise.

Following the decision to grant the judicial review on “limited grounds” and “with some hesitation” a Deliveroo spokesperson said in statement that the ruling has “clearly upheld the central finding of the CAC, which is that Deliveroo riders are self-employed.” Reaffirming one of the central tenets of its business, the spokesperson said this particular clarification was positive. “This is good news for Deliveroo riders who value the ability to choose when and where to work.”

The delivery giant then doubled-down, saying that the flexibility offered is its “central” draw. “Deliveroo has created well paid flexible work for 15,000 riders across the UK and riders make over £10 an hour on average with Deliveroo, well above the National Living Wage.” Deliveroo also says it “has long argued that the self-employed should have access to greater protections” and they they “welcome any debate on how that can best be achieve.”

However, The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has immediately released its own statement calling on the government to write into statute “a positive definition of self-employment to provide clarity on who does and does not work for themselves.”

IPSE’s director of policy Simon McVicker said:

The fact that this decision comes only months [November] after the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) ruled in favour of Deliveroo emphasises the uncertainty and makes the need for a statutory definition of self-employment crystal clear.

It is unacceptable that policymakers are relying on costly, time-consuming court cases as the first port of call in determining employment status. IPSE has long asserted that there is a fundamental lack of clarity about what does and doesn’t constitute self-employment. This confusion hurts both the self-employed and those looking to engage them.

IPSE calls on the government to consider the definition of self-employment has having four elements:

  1. Autonomy in their work
  2. Having control over their working arrangements
  3. Taking on business risk
  4. The level of independence from clients

“Disappointingly, the government doesn’t appear to support this idea, but this case – just days after Pimlico Plumbers were defeated in the Supreme Court – demonstrates just how beneficial a positive definition would be,” McVicker added.

The food delivery company has recently announced a new share scheme for head office staff that cuts out drivers and riders, and last year commented that workers’ rights would add £1 to prices on the platform; this comes as Deliveroo attempts to invest more closely in restaurants, with a view to opening its own independent kitchens. As doubts over the company’s commitment to the restaurants that brought it on to the scene so successfully grow, certain London restaurant operators have expressed concern over the potentially deleterious effect of the platform’s expansion:

More soon as this story develops.