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Another win for gig economy couriers: Just Eat’s European drivers are now ‘workers’

Similarly to Uber, Just Eat has implemented a worker model for its couriers, providing workplace protections and benefits.

Allie Nawrat

gig economy Just Eat
Credit: Peter Lnd via Twenty20.

Unleash Your Workers Is this the beginning of the end for the gig economy as we know it?

  • Just Eat and Takeaway.com merged in early 2020.
  • Now Just Eat is applying Takeaway.com’s so-called ‘Scoober worker model’ to other European markets, including the UK.
  • Meanwhile, Uber is entering the German market and is relying on fleet operators to manage its couriers.

In the latest win for gig economy workers, Just Eat has joined the likes of Uber, recognizing its self-employed riders in the UK — as well as elsewhere in Europe — as ‘workers’ entitled to minimum pay and workplace pensions.

As a result, workers will also be eligible for benefits like sick and holiday pay, the right to work set shifts, and operate from a central hub where they can take breaks. The couriers are also covered by appropriate insurance and given bespoke training.

Just Eat’s employment model is known as ‘Scoober’ and is a legacy of Takeaway.com, a Dutch food delivery company, that merged with Just Eat in early 2020 following a £6.4 billion deal. Takeaway.com has been using the Scoober model in Amsterdam since 2016.  

As a result of the merger, Just Eat decided to expand this model across its 12 markets in Europe and Israel – which directly and indirectly employ more than 200,000 couriers.

Launching Scoober across the UK and France was one of Just Eat’s 2020 highlights in its annual report.

“We firmly believe that providing couriers with employment contracts, hourly wages, and social security is the right thing to do.

“It also improves our last-mile visibility and the quality of service we provide to consumers and restaurant partners.”

Just Eat’s Scoober model launches in the UK

The food delivery company first launched ‘Scoober’ in the UK in November, starting with London.

In December, the company set itself the goal of having 1,000 UK riders on Scoober contracts by the end of April. However, it has already vastly exceeded that goal.

Just Eat UK managing director Andrew Kenny told the Evening Standard in early April, “we got to 1,000 in about half the time we thought we would. We’re at close to double that right now and are expanding it all the time.”

These 2,000 drivers are based in London and Birmingham, but now Just Eat has decided to expand this model to 1,500 delivery riders in Liverpool, as reported by the Guardian.

Kenny added that Just Eat is “excited to roll this out to Liverpool” and is “hugely ambitious to grow this further out across the UK.”

However, these new Scoober ‘workers’ will now no longer be able to work for other delivery companies in addition to Just Eat.

gig economy Just Eat
Credit: Just Eat.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s president Alex Marshall told the Guardian this move is “a step in the right direction, but still not where it should be to offer a sustainable job that people can build a life around”.

He said there were numerous issues around how much the riders are actually being paid, which was also highlighted by unions in relation to a similar move by Uber.

Although these new Scoober roles are open to both new and existing couriers, Marshall noted couriers already working for a Just Eat contractor have not been given first dibs.

UK Scoober push echoed across Europe

Just Eat has taken a similar approach across Europe, including France. Starting in Paris in November, the Scoober model has now been expanded to Lyon, Bordeaux, and Toulouse, according to Just Eat’s first quarter trading report.

Just Eat is also working on full adoption of its Scoober model in Italy and Spain. Its annual report said:

“We believe the Scoober employed courier model is the most sustainable, as evidenced by court judgments against the independent contractor model in these countries”.

Spain is currently working on legislation that would enshrine the labor rights of its gig workers in law. As reported by Wired, this law is expected to designate gig workers as wage laborers, as well as forcing companies to share how the algorithm ranking system works.

[Read more: HR tech gone wrong? Uber told to reinstate drivers after robo-firing.]

Other positive changes for European gig workers

In other good news for gig economy workers, Uber Eats has told the Financial Times that it is gearing up to challenge Just Eat’s dominance in Germany. It will launch a food delivery servoice in Germany in the next few weeks, starting with Berlin.

However, unlike its couriers in the UK – who were exempted from Uber’s move to designate its drivers as workers – Uber Eats’ couriers in Germany will be employed by fleet management companies, rather than being self-employed contractors.

Uber will pay its fleet manager partner for each order, who will then pay the couriers.

Uber is copying this model from its Swiss operation where a court case forced couriers to apply for jobs at a fleet operator.

Talking about the model, Uber’s senior vice-president of delivery Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty told the Financial Times that while a fleet operator approach “adds cost to the system”, it can also “create some efficiency” around management of workers.

Uber did not respond to UNLEASH’s request for comment.

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