A parliamentary enquiry has called for online food delivery company Deliveroo to pay its workers the national minimum wage.

The report by Frank Field, the Labour chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, has found that Deliveroo’s flexible “gig economy” arrangement works for some. However, some others earn less than £2 an hour.

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“Of the 2.8 million people working in the gig economy, around 588,000 deliver food. Of those, around 158,000 report being paid less than the National Living Wage,” wrote co-authors Field and parliamentary researcher Andrew Forsey in Delivering justice? A report on the pay and working conditions of Deliveroo riders.

Too many missing out on work

Field has already looked into working conditions at Hermes, Uber, DPD and Parcelforce. He has gathered evidence from 179 Deliveroo riders to create the report.

In it, he found that Deliveroo’s workforce resembles a dual labour market. This is a market that works well for some individuals and very poorly for others. Field notes that Deliveroo’s current employment model resembles the system of casual labour that existed in Britain’s docks and ports a century ago. One where some were fortunate to be offered fairly regular shifts, while others were offered none.

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“The self-employed status and part-time nature of much gig economy work has given the labour market a flexibility. This flexibility is still relatively new,” Field said. “Some of those workers who are keen to seize this opportunity view it as a short-term option while they develop their longer term earning power – setting up their own business, starting on an artistic career and the like.

“But for an unknown number of workers these imposed self-employment opportunities are all there is on offer. Even though their need is for stable work for at least the level of the National Living Wage,” he added. “It is this group that we are concerned about in this report. And have been in each previous report we have published on the gig economy.”

Stability and certainty required

To help Deliveroo workers gain additional financial security without necessarily sacrificing any flexibility, the report recommends that:

  • Those people requiring greater stability and certainty in their work should be able to look to their firm to offer this prospect after they have built up a record over a certain period of time. Deliveroo should commit itself to offering a form of worker status to those riders who form the backbone of its workforce.
  • Workers who prize flexibility and only wish to work a smaller number of hours to suit their own needs, or wrap around other jobs, should be able to continue embracing the current model which enables Deliveroo to expand and contract its workforce when needed. However, the company should guarantee hourly pay rates of no less than the National Living Wage. This should cover all time that people are logged in and available for work.

Deliveroo promises to do more

Responding to the report, a Deliveroo spokesperson said: “Riders choose how much they want to work and when. They are very clear they want to protect the flexibility that self-employment provides.

“Deliveroo believes more can be done to increase the security for riders while protecting their ability to be their own bosses. This is why we have introduced free, market-leading insurance for all, covering riders in case anything goes wrong.

“But we want to go further, and have called on the government to update employment rules to end the trade-off between flexibility and security and enable platforms to offer riders even more benefits. This is without putting their employment status at risk.”

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