A top employment solicitor from one of London’s leading mid-tier law firms, Mackrell Turner Garrett, has said that Deliveroo’s change in vocabulary when referring to its riders may not be enough to prevent the Courts recognising them as workers.
The comments come from the firm after a report from The Guardian, which claims to have obtained a six-page document from Deliveroo including a list of ‘dos and don’ts’ when referring to the delivery companies riders.
Within its guidance, Deliveroo recommends that its managers call its riders ‘independent suppliers’ rather than ‘staff’, refer to ‘invoices’ as opposed to ‘payslips’ and ‘kit or equipment’ rather than ‘uniform’.
Deliveroo’s new management vocabulary guidelines attempt to make it extremely clear what can and cannot be said when referring to the firm’s deliverers of fast food.
A spokesperson for Deliveroo told The Guardian: “We have almost 1,000 full-time staff and work with over 15,000 riders in the UK. We ensure that employees know how to work with our partners, which includes training and guidelines to follow when talking to customers, restaurants, and of course self-employed riders.”
This latest development in the ever-growing ‘gig economy’ comes after a number of workers taking legal action against businesses who operate in this sector.
These cases frequently revolve around whether the individuals hired by the company are self-employed or direct employees of the business, with workers often claiming that they are in fact employees, based upon their relationship with the business and therefore should be treated as such and receive the same employment rights, such as holiday and sick pay and the payment of the National Minimum Wage.
However, despite its efforts, Donna Martin, an Associate within Mackrell Turner Garrett’s Employment Law Team, believes that in reality it is likely that this change in vocabulary by Deliveroo will have very little effect.
She said: “Whilst we have seen a number of recent cases dealing with individuals’ status in the ever evolving gig economy, we need to go back six years to the Supreme Court decision in the case of Autoclenz v Belcher in order to get an indication as to how courts will view labels and titles.”
The Autoclenz case dealt with claims by individuals engaged by the car cleaning company on written contracts which identified them as ‘independent contractors’, said Donna.
“On further review, when the court looked into the reality of the situation, it was clear that the individuals were actually treated as workers and were not self-employed, despite what was written in their contracts,” she added.
“Therefore the contracts were disregarded on the basis that they did not accurately reflect the reality of the working relationship.
“If the Courts are prepared to overlook the theory, in favour of the practice, then I do not see how changing oral references and titles will assist in defending claims of worker/employee status.
“The actual relationship between the parties needs not only to be truly reflected in the contract, but also consistent with treatment by the company in everyday life”.