Ruli Pennington - executive producer at CLGdotTV. Writes Night in the City an occasional and occasionally scurrilous blog for Information Daily. Passionate about better public services, devolution, malt whisky & women's football.


Platform businesses offering "gig-economy" delivery drivers "questionable" contracts written in "gibberish"


© Normanack - Vlad (the impaler) Wingull, Gryphon

The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee slams Uber, Amazon, Deliveroo and Hermes.

The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee has delivered a damning verdict on a number of platform businesses. Platform business build consumer value by doing nothing more than facilitating an exchange between two or more groups, often consumers and producers. Included in the Committee's list of badly behaved businesses are Uber the troubling hail a ride app and Amazon which recently broke into the top-five (by market capitalisation) largest companies in the world. 

The Committee has published the contracts it has received in its inquiry into Self-employment and the gig economy, and related correspondence. Some of the problems of the contracts - the clauses they contain and the way they are written – were highlighted in the evidence sesssion with Uber, Hermes, Deliveroo and Amazon.

 Some key points that emerge from the contracts include:

  • Uber’s contract is “unintelligible” - which they acknowledge in their letter.
  • Deliveroo’s contract explicitly requires its couriers to agree that they are not workers, and to agree not to challenge their self-employed status in court. The company said in oral evidence on February 22 that this clause would “disappear”. Their letter to the Committee now commits to removing it “within the coming weeks”.
  • Section 13 of Uber’s contract contains a clause on not disputing self-employed status — similar to Deliveroo’s, as was discussed in the evidence session.
  • Section 2 of Amazon’s contract performs a similar function to section 13 of Uber’s contract—although neither goes as far as Deliveroo’s in getting couriers to agree not to challenge their status in court.

Whether any of these clauses are legally enforceable is perhaps not the point: the intention appears to be to put people off challenging their status, including going to court, and trying to obtain employment rights that may be due to them.

Frank Field Chair of the Committee 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 Transport for London'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. 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.

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