More problems for Deliveroo as ‘substitute driver’ scandal hits headlines again

Gig employer Deliveroo has come under more fire this weekend as a loophole allowing riders to use substitutes means that deliveries could be made by riders who have not completed the company’s strict vetting procedure, and who may not have undergone food hygiene training, putting customers at risk.

As self-employed contractors, riders are allowed to take on ‘substitutes’ to do their deliveries – which means that Deliveroo does not undertake their usual checks.  However, IWGB chief Dr Jason Moyer-Lee, believes the company added the substitution clause purely to defeat the riders’ tribunal claim, describing the clause as ‘bogus’.  He said

“If the riders can send someone to deliver for them whenever they want, it means Deliveroo have absolutely no idea who is doing all these deliveries for them – whether they’re doing them in a safe manner, whether they’re putting the public in danger, whether they have unspent criminal convictions.


“They’re saying that they’re happy with a situation where they have no clue who the people who are delivering their food are.”

Deliveroo is currently the subject of an an ongoing employment tribunal, where the business model and self-employed contracts are under scrutiny.  If the riders can establish that they are workers, rather than self-employed contractors, they would establish legal rights to statutory sick pay, minimum wage and would also accrue holiday pay.  One of the tests on whether or not a person is self-employed or a worker is the ‘right of substitution’ so this could prove important  to the outcome of the case.

The new ‘substitution’ clause is proving controversial.

John Hendy QC, who represents the IWGB trade union, said the lack of security checks was “unreal”, adding:

“This person has access to flats or apartment numbers… your substitute rider Mr X could be a convicted rapist or paedophile.”

Deliveroo was also accused of failing to meet legal health and safety requirements as substitute riders do not receive hygiene or food safety instructions from the company.  John Hendy QC told Deliveroo’s Operations Director David Scott:

“You don’t even advise Deliveroo riders looking to engage a substitute that they should ensure their substitute is trained to the standard that they are, or indeed to any standard at all.”

Deliveroo pays an outside company to conduct background checks for a £40 flat rate.  A company spokesperson said:

“If a rider wishes to use a substitute, we make clear that it is their responsibility to ensure that the substitute has the requisite skills, rights to work and no unspent criminal convictions.


“If a rider is found to be using a substitute who does not meet these requirements, then we will stop offering work to that rider.”

IWGB chief Dr Jason Moyer-Lee does not believe background checks are a reasonable burden to pass on to riders, telling The Sun Online:

“There’s no way that a Deliveroo rider is going to hire an outside company to conduct background checks on their substitutes and pay £40 a pop for it, when one delivery earns them £3.75. It’s just nonsensical.”

Employment advice service Peninsula believe the outcome of the tribunal decision will be significant for other gig employers.   HR and Employment Law Director Alan Price said:

“Deliveroo are the latest ‘gig economy’ employer being taken to tribunal to determine the correct classification of their riders. From 2014-2016 Peninsula has experienced a 63% increase in advice requests regarding employment status from small business owners.


“This is another significant case for the gig economy; Deliveroo’s working practices and their contractual terms will be scrutinised over the next days to assess how they treat their riders in practice. Another decision in favour of workers is likely to result in Deliveroo facing further claims for back pay and holiday pay whilst, going forwards, they would need to review their pay practices and provide other worker rights such as a workplace pension.


“Union recognition will create a turning point in ‘gig economy’ employment as working conditions such as payment terms, rest breaks and working time can be negotiated for the workforce at large. It will also enable gig economy workers to consider strike action as a tool for negotiation – arguably putting them in a stronger position than many view they currently are.”

The tribunal hearing continues.




Author: Editorial Team

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