Union wins right to challenge Deliveroo workers' rights case

A UK court case could deliver improved employment rights for gig economy workers.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Are Deliveroo riders employed by Deliveroo, or are they self-employed? It's a question that plagues all gig economy companies, and the latest legal attempt to resolve the issue has swung slightly in the direction of workers.

The UK's High Court has ruled the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) can challenge a previous ruling that riders delivering food to Deliveroo customers are self-employed. That paves the way for a full judicial review before a High Court Judge at a later date which may see gig economy workers handed improved employment rights.

Deliveroo -- and Uber and Lyft and other companies that connect people to jobs via an app -- contend they are a conduit rather than an employer. They say that because they don't employ their workers, they don't have to provide employment benefits such as a minimum wage, holiday pay and collective bargaining rights. 

Gig economy workers have taken to the streets to publicly protest working conditions, while legal challenges have been mounted against gig economy companies around the world. In one recent case, an industrial tribunal reclassified Uber drivers as employees of the app company rather than just people using the app to share their car with passengers.

Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee, General Secretary of the IWGB, calls this case "not just an employment rights issue, but rather a matter of fundamental human rights." He suggests Deliveroo should "ask itself whether it really wants to save a bit of money at the expense of the Human Rights of the individuals who make their business a success."

A Deliveroo spokesperson points out that the decision allows only a limited challenge to the previous ruling, saying "Deliveroo has long argued that the self-employed should have access to greater protections, and we welcome any debate on how that can best be achieved."

In February, the government announced a new Good Work plan to improve access to sick pay, holiday pay and stable contracts for workers with insecure employment. 

Deliveroo is available in over 200 cities across Europe, Asia and Australia. There are more than 15,000 Deliveroo workers in the UK.  

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