Deliveroo is building clauses into the contracts of its couriers that prevents them from taking the food delivery startup to court to try to be recognised as staff members, The Guardian reports.
The clause reportedly states that Deliveroo couriers — who pick up food from city restaurants and deliver it via bicycle or moped to Deliveroo customers at their homes and offices — cannot go to an employment tribunal.
Those that choose to take the company to court in a bid to be recognised as a staff member will be contractually obliged to pay Deliveroo’s legal fees, the contract reportedly states.
However, a lawyer told The Guardian that the clause is unenforceable, adding that it could have been added as a means of deterring Deliveroo couriers from going down this route.
Like Uber drivers, Deliveroo couriers are technically self-employed, meaning they have fewer rights than those who are employed directly by the company.
The clause in the Deliveroo courier contract reportedly reads:
“You further warrant that neither you nor anyone acting on your behalf will present any claim in the employment tribunal or any civil court in which it is contended that you are either an employee or a worker.”
An additional clause reportedly adds that anyone taking legal action must “indemnify and keep indemnified Deliveroo against costs (including legal costs) and expenses that it incurs.”
Michael Newman, partner at law firm Leigh Day, told The Guardian that Deliveroo probably wouldn’t be able to enforce the clauses because they go against established employment rights.
“Penalty clauses in contracts are unenforceable and it is likely that any clause attempting to bar access to an employment tribunal would be seen as without commercial justification and unconscionable, and therefore a penalty,” he said.
“If it was two sophisticated parties with legal advisers, for example two big businesses, it might be decided that they had equal bargaining power, making it less likely to be a penalty clause. With Deliveroo there is no such equality — they are using a standard contract on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, and the worker couldn’t bargain with them. They either just sign the contract or walk away.”
Newman added that the clauses are put there to “scare the worker.”
Deliveroo said in a statement: “We provide a platform for people to work with us on a freelance basis. This allows riders to work flexibly around another commitment, like studying or other work. We’ve worked with legal experts to design our contracts to reflect that and we’re proud to be creating opportunities for over 5,000 riders across the UK.”
In the UK, Deliveroo riders are paid £7 per hour with £1 commission for each delivery. However, the company has been trialling payment model, where riders are paid £4.25 per delivery.
Several Deliveroo riders told the BBC that this meant they were earning less than minimum wage (£7.20 per hour). Deliveroo said drivers tend to make two drops an hour on average, earning £8.50 an hour, while some “efficient drivers” can earn more than £12 an hour.
The food delivery startup has raised $200 million (£158 million) from investors since it was founded by Will Shu and Greg Orlowski in 2012