MPs blast ‘gibberish’ gig economy contracts

Posted On: 
6th April 2017

MPs have attacked “gig economy” firms, including Amazon and Deliveroo, for offering “unintelligible” contracts to their workers.

A Deliveroo courier
PA Images

The Work and Pensions Committee accused the companies of exploiting “gibberish” to include clauses that prevent workers from challenging them in court over holiday and pay employment rights.

The firms have come under fire for insisting that their workers are “self-employed”, and thus not entitled to the same rights for sick pay and pensions as salaried employees to sick pay and pensions.

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The companies claim that the contracts give those that work for them flexibility.

Deliveroo was singled out by MPs for explicitly requiring its couriers to agree that they are not employees, and to agree not to challenge their status in court.

Uber requires a similar commitment from drivers not to dispute their self-employed status, while Amazon’s contract performs a similar function.

MPs said by not paying sick leave, the National Living Wage, or contributing to pensions, the businesses were placing the burden on the taxpayer. 

Frank Field, the committee chair, said: “Quite frankly the Uber contract is gibberish.

“They are well aware that many, if not most, of their drivers speak English as a second language – they recently lost a court case trying to escape TfL’s new English testing rules for private hire drivers – yet their contract is almost unintelligible.

“And it, like Deliveroo’s, contains this egregious clause about not challenging the official designation of ‘self-employed’, when the way they work looks in most ways an awful lot like being employed.

“These companies parade the ‘flexibility’ their model offers to drivers but it seems the only real flexibility is enjoyed by the companies themselves. It does seem a marvellous business model if you can get away with it.

“My worry is that as a result these companies contribute little to the public purse or our social safety net. They are not paying sick leave, National Living Wage, or contributing to pensions. Yet it seems likely that their employment practices will lead more people to need taxpayers to pick up these costs.”