We’re calling for more security for riders

A message from Will Shu, Deliveroo CEO and Co-founder

I started Deliveroo for one simple reason: my love of food. Food brings people together to share experiences and cultures. I was Deliveroo’s first rider, and I know how happy people are when they open the door to their favourite meal. That’s one of the reasons I still do deliveries to this day. For me, it’s always been about bringing great food to people, so whether I’ve got some time to spare at the office, or I’m kicking about by my house, it’s easy for me to just grab my bike, head out, and open the app.

That’s how easy it is to participate in the growing on-demand economy. There are so few barriers to entry that almost anyone has the opportunity to be their own boss. And just as the food is on-demand, so is the work. People can choose to work when it suits them best, where it’s easiest for them to be, and how much time they want to spend out on their bike. From students who are looking to fit work around their study schedule and exams, to people with caring responsibilities who won’t know when they won’t be able to work, to mums and dads rejoining the labour market after having children and looking to pick up a few hours of work here and there. It’s also well-paid, the average earnings of a Deliveroo rider in the UK are over £10.00 an hour, well above National Living Wage. Technology is not just changing how easily we can get our favourite food, it’s changing the world of work for the better.

I learn something new every time I go out and make deliveries. I’ll be collecting an order from one of our partner restaurants, and I’ll chat to one of the other riders – ask them what they’re enjoying, or not, and take that knowledge back to the office with me the next day. They might tell me they’re having a bad day, they could do with a holiday – it’s only natural.

Because I go out and deliver regularly, I get it. I know there are some concerns about the new way of working that platforms like Deliveroo offer. Because this way of working is new, the regulation has some catching up to do, and currently for riders to be able to maintain the flexibility they want they are not able to receive the benefits they deserve.

Let me be clear. I strongly believe that everyone – regardless of their type of contract – is entitled to certain benefits. Currently, we are constrained in offering benefits to riders because employment legislation states that only ‘employees’ or ‘workers’ can be freely offered a broad range of benefits (but don’t have the full flexibility self-employed people enjoy); the self-employed are not entitled to those benefits.

I have long argued that I want to end this trade-off between flexibility and security. Because I want to protect riders, this year Deliveroo was the first platform in the on-demand economy to offer riders free insurance. 35,000 riders in all the countries in which we operate will now have access to free accident insurance to protect them and their earnings should they be unable to ride if they are hurt whilst out on the road. I believe it is the right thing to do, and I’m pleased that other companies are now following our lead. But taking such action carries a risk that a court might view this as a change in the relationship between Deliveroo and riders, and class them as ‘workers’ rather than self-employed. Because of this legal uncertainty, going further and offering more benefits heightens the risk of riders’ employment status being reclassified in the courts. Riders have told me they enjoy flexible working – 85% of Deliveroo riders agree that flexibility is what they value most about working with us – and if their employment status were reclassified, this would be lost.

It’s not an impossible task. In France, President Macron is looking at policy solutions to balance flexibility and security for people in the on-demand economy. The French majority party are currently looking at legislation which would allow companies like Deliveroo to offer benefits to our riders without their self-employment status being put at risk.

That’s why I’m calling on the Government to introduce a new Charter to allow platforms like Deliveroo to be able to directly provide certain benefits, like insurance and payments to cover sickness or holidays, as well as training, without there being any risk that self-employed contractors will lose their employment status and the flexibility that comes with it. A Charter would provide greater clarity for companies who want to offer self-employed contractors more security, as well as greater certainty for those who work in the on-demand economy. It would be a bold move and in the interests of the growing number of platform workers – those that I join out on the road when I make deliveries. It would mean that riders could accumulate a pool of money for time off for sickness or for holidays – the more deliveries they make, the more they get. It’s only fair.

As the on-demand economy continues to grow, the UK has the opportunity to be a leader in setting the standard for best practice. The Government can act now to build the legal framework that benefits those who work in the on-demand economy, consumers and tech businesses like mine. I want to continue to build on our successes in the UK. With 15,000 riders delivering great tasting food from the nation’s best-loved restaurants to doorsteps up and down the country, I still get excited when we start up in a new city or town. Let’s make sure that doesn’t change.

– Will