Supreme Court rules Deliveroo riders are not employees ending seven-year dispute

The Supreme Court found the relationship between Deliveroo and its riders is not one of an employer and employees with riders free to accept or reject jobs, as Geraint Vincent reports

Deliveroo workers cannot be represented by unions for collective bargaining purposes, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Tuesday's ruling brings to an end a seven-year dispute which began Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) tried to represent a group of workers from Camden and Kentish Town in London over pay and working conditions.

IWGB's case was initially rejected by the Central Arbitration Committee, something that was upheld by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal, leaving only the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal.

Judge Vivien Rose said Deliveroo riders do not have an "employment relationship" with the company and were not entitled to collective bargaining like typical salaried workers.

The case lasted more than seven years. Credit: PA

Lady Rose highlighted clauses in the Deliveroo contract that allow riders to get other people to carry out their delivery on their behalf.

Under usual employment terms, you are "not allowed to send someone along to do the job for you", she said.

She said this, along with other factors within the contract, meant Deliveroo riders do not have an "employment relationship" that would guarantee certain union rights.

Collective bargaining is one of the most powerful tools trade unions have to try and improve conditions for their members.

Unions negotiate with employers on behalf of all their members, forming a more powerful negotiating platform than individual workers can present on their own.

Deliveroo riders can still be members of a trade union and receive other benefits.

Last year Deliveroo recognised the GMB union and promised to guarantee riders minimum earnings and negotiate on a range of issues.

Deliveroo riders as they go on strike in a dispute for fair pay, safety protections and basic workers' rights. Credit: PA

Collective bargaining was included as part of the GMB deal, but it was voluntary and not legally required as IWGB's case argued it should be.

According to the Trade Union Congress, most collective bargaining agreements in the UK are voluntary.

IWGB said the GMB deal was a "publicity stunt" and questioned why Deliveroo had decided to work with a union not traditionally affiliated with gig workers.

Deliveroo has more than 50,000 riders in the UK and is one of several businesses that has been subjected to legal cases over whether their riders are workers or self-employed.

In a similar case in 2021, the Supreme Court ruled Uber drivers should be classed as workers, not independent third-party contractors.

Lawyers argued the ruling meant gig workers like Uber drivers were now entitled to basic rights like holiday pay and pension plans.

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