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Meals on wheels - legal ruling finds Deliveroo riders are not 'workers' in employment law

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A statutory body, the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), has ruled that riders for meal delivery app, Deliveroo, are not ‘workers’ but are self-employed.  Worker status means a number of rights are available to the individual including trade union recognition. Howard Robson, Employment Partner, explains what led to this decision, and what impact this may have on the so called ‘gig economy’.

An application for trade union recognition was made by the riders of Deliveroo, represented by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB). A legally ‘recognised’ trade union can then negotiate terms such pay, holidays and hours with the business. For such recognition to be accepted in law the individuals must be ‘workers’ and required to undertake personal service themselves; they cannot be self employed and in business on their own account.  

The decision may be contrasted with the recent Uber case where the drivers also claimed they are ‘workers’. Uber argued that they are merely an agent connecting drivers and passengers.  The Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled that Uber drivers are in fact workers. The difference between the two types of working is that Deliveroo riders have the ability to either accept or decline a job and send a substitute individual if they wish. Uber drivers are required to take a certain percentage of trips while working and they cannot set their own rates and were integrated into the Uber business and marketed as such. In effect, once the app was logged into, Uber drivers were available to users and under Uber’s direction.  

Deliveroo Managing Director, Dan Warne, sees the decision as a triumph, and states it reinforces the very nature of work that their riders value, which is the flexibility of self-employment. The decision on ‘non worker status’ may be repeated if tested in the Employment Tribunals; but all such cases are decided on the particular circumstances at the time.     

Self-employed or worker status

The gig economy has been in the spotlight increasingly in recent months with rulings such as Uber, City Sprint and Pimlico Plumbers finding that the workforce was made up of workers, contrary to the employer’s business model.  

There are various factors pointing whether a workforce is self-employed, or has worker or employed status. These include:

  • Whether there is an obligation on the employer to provide work, and an obligation on the individual, whether personally or not, to accept work
  • Whether the individual is subject to the employer’s control over their work patterns
  • Whether the individual is subject to other elements that may be present in their employment contract, for example whether they are required to wear a uniform, whether they are subject to the firm’s grievance and disciplinary procedures and if they are integrated into the workforce.

Uber have stated they will be appealing the recent decision regarding their workforce, but these cases prove how vital it is that employers ascertain the status of who works for them. They may be entitled to rights they are not currently given, and incorrect status afforded them could lead to tribunal claims involving back pay for holiday pay and wages if challenged. Now that Tribunal fees have also been abolished, at least for the moment, there is no initial cost to a person bringing a claim.

If you are an employer looking to clarify the status of your workforce, you can contact Howard or the Employment team on 02380 717717 or email


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.