Deliveroo drivers are not workers, what does this mean for employers?

Deliveroo drivers are not workers, what does this mean for employers?

The employment status of Deliveroo riders has been a long running debate in the world of employment law, and after 7 years, has finally come to an end.

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has been fighting over the employment status of Deliveroo’s couriers, arguing that they should be considered as “workers” rather than “self-employed” and therefore being able to form a collective bargaining unit.


In 2007, it was held that the couriers would not be classed as workers under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, meaning that an application for trade union recognition was denied. Deliveroo had previously classified its couriers as independent contractors, allowing Deliveroo to avoid traditional employment rights that the gig economy does not provide for, such as minimum wage, paid holiday and sick leave.

The couriers argued that despite the flexibility of their work; they had a valid employer-employee relationship as they were required to wear branded clothing and had to use the company rating system.

Deliveroo case

After an initial decision and multiple appeals, the case was referred to the Supreme Court. The couriers believed that the recent Uber ruling, deciding that Uber drivers would be classed as workers, should also apply to them, however the Supreme Court ruled that the deal the couriers had with Deliveroo was remarkably different, and as such, the same status would not apply.

The Court took multiple factors into account when making the decision, including whether:

  • Riders had to carry out deliveries;
  • There was a specified place of work or they could choose;
  • Riders had set hours or decide their working pattern;
  • There was an entitlement to rest
  • Riders were given equipment to carry out the job, such as phones and bikes

The Supreme Court decided that based on the fact that the couriers could appoint a substitute, could work for other companies and could decide their working pattern and/or whether they worked at all, there was not an employment relationship and so were not entitled to collective bargaining.

What does this mean for employers?

It will be important that employers use the correct type of contract when employing staff and understand the difference between employees and workers. There are three potential employment statuses, employed, worker or self employed and each one has different rights and protections under employment law.

Workers have fewer rights than employees and so can be favourable for employers, but just because the contract states that a member of staff is a worker does not mean that will be the case. The courts will take the specific facts and the working relationship into account when deciding whether employment rights will apply.

If you would like any further advice on the employment relationship between workers, employees and self-employed or establishing which would be the correct contract to use please get in touch.

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