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Deliveroo wins UK case confirming its riders are self-employed

And they don’t have the right to unionize.

Allie Nawrat


Credit: ANGELIQUE RADEMAKERS via Twenty20.

This comes in stark contrast to a February Supreme Court decision that forced Uber to turn its drivers into workers. Unleash Your People

  • The IWGB has lost an appeal in the UK Court of Appeal to get Deliveroo riders recognized as workers with the right to unionize.
  • What does this mean for UK gig workers?

The UK’s Court of Appeal has today ruled in favor of Deliveroo and its decision to designate its riders as self-employed.

As a result, the three judges presiding over the case dismissed an appeal by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) against past judgements over the rider’s ‘worker’ status, and particularly their rights to unionize as per Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

The ‘worker’ status is a quirk of UK law that is a middle ground between being employed and self-employed, but it gives the worker access to certain rights, including getting paid the national minimum wage, paid holiday leave, and sometimes other benefits like pensions.

One of the three judges – Lord Justice Underhill – wrote in his judgment that “the riders do not fall without the scope of trade union freedom right under article 11” – he notes they have the freedom to organize as self-employed workers, but they do not have the right to form or join a trade union to do so.

Another of the judges, Lord Justice Coulson added to the disposal section of the judgement that part of the reason why this decision was made was because Deliveroo riders have the right to arrange for someone else to take their shift if they are unable to make it.

Therefore, this doesn’t fit with the “employment relationship” concept set out by the International Labor Organization, which states work “must be carried out personally by the worker”.

In addition, Lord Justice Coulson noted that this case is not connected to the recent Supreme Court ruling that ride-hailing app must transform its drivers into ‘workers’ under UK law because that case was not concerned with article 11 of the ECHR.

The three judges further refused IWGB the right to appeal this decision to the supreme court.

Talking about the decision, a Deliveroo spokesperson told UNLEASH: “Today is good news for Deliveroo riders and marks an important milestone.

“UK courts have now tested and upheld the self-employed status of Deliveroo riders four times.

“Our message to riders is clear. We will continue to back your right to work the way you want and we will continue to listen to you and respond to the things that matter to you most.

“Deliveroo’s model offers the genuine flexibility that is only compatible with self-employment, providing riders with the work they tell us they value.

“Those campaigning to remove riders’ flexibility do not speak for the vast majority of riders and seek to impose a way of working that riders do not want.

“Deliveroo will continue to campaign for companies like ours to be able to offer the full flexibility of self-employment along with greater benefits and more security.”

While IWGB president Alex Marshall, who is a former courier, commented: “Deliveroo couriers have been working on the frontline of the pandemic and whilst being applauded by the public and even declared heroes by their employer, they have been working under increasingly unfair and unsafe working conditions.

“The reward they have received for their Herculean effort? Deliveroo continuing to invest thousands of pounds in litigation to silence workers’ voices and deny them the opportunity to negotiate better terms and conditions.

“A recent investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed riders were making as little as £2 per hour. Is this the kind of pay workers would accept if they really were their own boss?

“It appears that when Deliveroo talk about flexibility and being your own boss, it is talking about the flexibility of choosing when to make poverty wages and work in unsafe conditions.

“The judgment recognises that riders would benefit from organising collectively to represent their interests and admits the conclusion reached in the judgment might seem counter intuitive.

“We will now consider our legal position, but one thing is for sure: we will continue to grow in numbers and fight on the streets until Deliveroo give these key worker heroes the pay and conditions they more than deserve.”

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