At our seminar, we discussed a number of recent cases which have wrestled with difficult questions about the status of those people working within the ‘gig economy’. Are they employees? Are they workers? Or are they genuinely self-employed?
One of the cases we discussed concerned the takeaway delivery business, Deliveroo. In a recent development, the IWGB (a trade union representing a group of Deliveroo riders) took their case to the High Court, seeking a judicial review in relation to a previous decision in which it was held that Deliveroo riders are genuinely self-employed.
Having considered the IWGB’s arguments, their case was dismissed by the High Court. Deliveroo successfully defended the original decision, in which it showed that its riders are under no obligation to accept any work that Deliveroo might offer to them. Furthermore, crucially, the riders are able to send a ‘substitute’ to perform their delivery duties for them. By showing that rider are not obliged to provide their own personal service, this undermined any suggestion that they are either employees or workers of Deliveroo.
The IWGB’s High Court case was primarily based on an argument that the riders’ human rights are being breached by denying them the rights and protections currently afforded to workers. The High Court dismissed these arguments, finding that there is no reason to believe that the riders’ human right are in any danger.
It’s fair to say that resorting to an argument based on an alleged breach of human rights is sometimes seen as an act of desperation in cases of this sort. As a result, one wonders why the IWGB has been so quick to confirm that it will appeal the decision. However, we will watch with interest to see how much further this dispute has to run.