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Gig Economy Contracts Branded ‘Gibberish’ By MPs

Legal Expert Comments On Latest Development In Row With Deliveroo And Uber

07.04.2017

Contracts issued by companies in the so-called gig economy use ‘gibberish’ language to put people off fighting for their employment rights, a committee of MPs has said.

Frank Field MP, chair of the work and pensions select committee which is investigating the gig economy, said companies like Deliveroo and Uber use an “egregious clause” in their contracts to deter people from challenging their designation as self-employed contractors, rather than employees or workers.

The MP’s comments are the latest development in an ongoing row about the legal position of people working in the gig economy. Those classified as ‘self-employed contractors’ by gig economy companies do not have access to rights such as sickness benefits and holiday pay, compared to ‘workers’ who have limited rights and ‘employees’ who enjoy full rights.

As part of its inquiry into the issue, the select committee published employment contracts and related correspondence from gig economy companies. Taxi app Uber was singled out for criticism over the confusing wording of its contract.

Frank Field 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… yet their contract is almost unintelligible.”

Takeaway courier firm Deliveroo provided managers with a list of dos and don’ts outlining how they should talk to their riders, including referring to them as “independent suppliers” rather than employees.

Frank Field said: “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.”

Padma Tadi is an Associate Solicitor and employment expert at Irwin Mitchell. She said:

Expert Opinion
“Advances in technology have turned the world of employment on its head, with app-based companies like Deliveroo and Uber enabling people to find work as a bicycle courier or taxi driver at the touch of a button. Now the law has to catch up with those advances and ensure that the rights of those working in the so-called gig economy are clearly defined.

“In my view, the importance is not specifically about the language used by organisations to describe their workforce – it’s what happens in practice that is important. Any contract or agreement needs to accurately reflect the nature of the work being undertaken.

“It is fairly common in some industries to see agreements between individuals and their employers which expressly state that they are “independent contractors” in business on their own account rather than employees. However, unless these agreements reflect the reality of the parties’ working relationship and individuals are genuinely self-employed, these contracts can be ignored even if they are signed by both parties.

“This is evident from recent high profile cases against Uber, Pimlico Plumbers and City Sprint where different Tribunals have found that so called self-employed individuals are in fact workers, despite the fact that the contractual documentation between the businesses and their workers were extremely carefully crafted.”
Padma Tadi, Senior Associate Solicitor

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