Nearly 50 UK lawmakers demanded Amazon-backed unicorn Deliveroo provide PPE and sick pay for its food delivery riders

LUDOVIC MARIN / GettyDeliveroo CEO Will Shu.
  • UK lawmakers have demanded that Amazon-backed Deliveroo improve how it treats its delivery riders during the pandemic.
  • Around 50 MPs signed a letter requesting adequate PPE for all riders; full pay for riders who contract COVID-19 or have to self isolate because of COVID-19; a halt on terminations until the end of the crisis; and more.
  • Like other gig economy firms, Deliveroo’s delivery riders are classified as workers rather than full-time employees who would automatically qualify for sick pay and other benefits.
  • Deliveroo is relying on its network of riders to ferry food and groceries to customers during the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

British lawmakers have written to the chief executive of Amazon-backed food delivery startup Deliveroo to demand better treatment for the company’s delivery riders during the pandemic.

The letter’s signatories include former Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn and 43 other MPs.

Similar to competitors like Uber Eats, Deliveroo employs an army of cyclists and motorcyclists to deliver restaurant food and groceries to customers at home.

As with many other workers for on-demand consumer startups, Deliveroo riders are classified as “workers” rather than full-time employees. This means they are self-employed contractors who don’t qualify for certain employment rights such as sick pay or holiday pay.

The cross-party letter, addressed to Deliveroo CEO Will Shu, is written in support of a campaign by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) to improve treatment of riders during the coronavirus crisis.

The letter urges Deliveroo to provide the following: Adequate PPE for all riders; full pay for riders who contract COVID-19 or have to self isolate because of COVID-19; a minimum standards guarantee; a halt on job terminations until the end of the crisis; and regular testing for riders.

It also urges Deliveroo to let high-risk couriers – those with pre-existing health conditions, for example – self-isolate for 12 weeks and receive full pay.

“To ignore the demands outlined above would be highly irresponsible and counter efforts to slow the spread of the virus,” the letter states. “We hope that you will make the right choice and comply with these basic demands so as to not only set a positive example for the industry, but also to prioritise the public’s safety over profits.”

In early March, Deliveroo launched no-contact dropoffs within its app and said it had ordered hand sanitizer for its riders. It also launched a hardship fund for riders forced to self-isolate, in lieu of statutory sick pay.

Sky News reported that some riders were finding it tough to access the fund because they didn’t have the relevant documentation. Many coronavirus patients in the UK are not formally diagnosed, and so won’t receive sick notes from their doctors.

Deliveroo is backed by Amazon, which is also under scrutiny for the treatment of its warehouse workers during the pandemic. The US e-commerce giant’s investment was subject to a probe by the UK’s competition watchdog, but was provisionally cleared after Deliveroo argued it might collapse without the investment.

In an email sent to Business Insider, a Deliveroo spokesperson said: “At Deliveroo, riders are at the heart of everything we do and we are working hard to support them during this unprecedented time. This includes distributing PPE kit to riders across the UK, supporting riders financially if they are unwell and keeping riders safe through contact-free delivery.

“We are incredibly grateful and proud of the vital role riders are playing in their communities, helping the public, including the vulnerable and isolated, receive the food they need and want. We have dedicated teams on hand to support riders every step of the way through this crisis.”

Here’s the letter in full:

“Dear Will Shu,

“We, the undersigned MPs, are writing to express extreme concern regarding the way Deliveroo riders are being treated during the COVID-19 crisis, and to add our voices to the following concerns as articulated by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB):

“The COVID-19 crisis has shone a spotlight on how ‘gig-economy’ companies treat their workers, in particular Deliveroo. As you know, Deliveroo riders are classified by the company as ‘independent contractors’ and therefore deprived of any minimum wage protection, holiday pay or sick pay provision under the law. The pandemic is now showing how important these basic rights are to precarious workers.

“Food couriers like Deliveroo riders already provide an important service in supplying meals to those who are less mobile. In the coming months, as key workers, they will play an essential role in catering both to the vast majority of society who are self-isolating, and also to other key workers such as NHS staff. It is only reasonable to expect that they are compensated for providing such a vital service, especially given the high risk conditions in which they operate.

“Please see below a list of basic demands to which we ask Deliveroo to adhere, in order to ensure the physical and financial security of their workforce, and to prioritise the safety of clients and the wider public during this time of serious concern for public health.

“1) Adequate PPE for all riders.

“We ask that rather than the current opt-in system for PPE provisions, which is inadequate and ineffective, you take a proactive approach by providing necessary safety equipment to all. Furthermore even riders that opted in the system have not been provided with the promised PPE. The riders ordered this PPE from Deliveroo on the 26th of March and have not yet received any provisions (14th of April). Your negligence is putting your riders and your customers at risk, especially now that you are encouraging hospital staff to order from your platform.

“2) Full pay for riders who contract COVID-19 or have to self isolate because of COVID-19.

“The £100p/w fund on offer for riders who have contracted COVID-19 is simply not enough to compensate a courier for having to self-isolate and forces many to work through potentially early symptoms in the hope of it not being COVID-19. Riders come into contact with hundreds of people while at work, and it is therefore a matter of social responsibility and public health that Deliveroo takes action to avoid this health crisis getting any worse. This fund should also cover riders that live with people who have displayed symptoms. The lack of full pay for riders will therefore accelerate the spread of the virus. The fund has also proven to be inaccessible for many riders as they are not able to meet the eligibility criteria, as they have not completed the numbers Independent Workers Union of Great Britain Address: Independent Workers Union of Great Britain St Margaret’s House, Room 1, 15 Old Ford Road, London, E2 9PJ Email [email protected] www.iwgb.org.uk of orders required. The fund should be there to assist everyone during this testing time; self isolation should not be a privilege.

“3) Provide a minimum standards guarantee.

“As key workers operating under high risk conditions, it is only reasonable for Deliveroo riders to be compensated with a minimum standards guarantee during this time (a real living wage plus costs, holiday pay and sick pay) while working. This is especially important in a time when the majority of riders have reported a decrease in orders, and therefore pay, following the closure of many restaurants. The workers on the frontline of this crisis should not be worrying about how to make their ends meet nor working for less than the minimum wage.

“4) Allow high-risk couriers to self-isolate for 12 weeks and receive full pay.

“‘High risk’ includes all those with pre-existing health conditions, those over 70 years old, and those couriers who live with high-risk people. Failure to provide this will expose many to life-threatening risks.

5) A halt on terminations until the end of the crisis.

At a time of such uncertainty, additional strain should not be put on Deliveroo couriers who will be worried about financially providing for themselves and family. It is clear that Deliveroo headquarters staff is stretched and does not have adequate time and resources to investigate customer and restaurant complaints which could lead to riders being unfairly terminated. This will also enable a larger workforce to cope with demand and help Deliveroo and the public through this crisis.

“6) Regular testing for riders.

“Your riders deliver to people who are self-isolating due to illness or to avoid being exposed to the potential risk of infection, as well as those on the front-line like NHS staff. It is therefore essential for couriers to be tested on a regular basis to make sure they are not unknowingly spreading the virus in places it could be fatal. The recent example of Ocado couriers being provided with COVID-19 testing sets a good example for the industry that we hope you will follow.

“We expect these demands to be met with the urgency they deserve. Thousands of people are currently being put at risk by your actions. Deliveroo couriers are low-paid, precarious workers, who are not able to self-isolate when sick or to protect their families, and clients and restaurant staff and other key workers including NHS staff are being potentially exposed to infection. To ignore the demands outlined above would be highly irresponsible and counter efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

“We hope that you will make the right choice and comply with these basic demands so as to not only set a positive example for the industry, but also to prioritise the public’s safety over profits.”

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