Only three of the UK’s most well-known digital labour platforms – Getir, Gorillas and Pedal Me – ensure their workers earn the minimum wage, a new study suggests.
A new report from the Fairwork project, based at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, highlights that Pedal Me (an e-bike transport service), Getir and Gorillas (both grocery delivery services) all used employment contracts with their riders as standard practice, providing all workers the associated statutory rights and benefits.
The Fairwork UK 2022 Ratings report evaluated 15 popular platforms across sectors including food delivery, grocery delivery, ride-hailing, care work, and cleaning services. Each platform in the study was assessed against five principles of fair work – fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, and fair representation – and assigned a score out of 10, based, it claimed, on “rigorous” methodology and assessment.
For the second year, Pedal Me topped the ratings with nine points. Delivery companies Getir and Gorillas, both newcomers to the UK delivery sector, scored eight and seven respectively. Meanwhile, household names like Deliveroo and Just Eat saw their scores fall compared with last year’s ratings, with Just Eat scoring just one point. Last year it was awarded a six. Deliveroo scored four, one point less than in 2021. Uber, 18 months on from last year’s Supreme Court ruling, improved its score in the Fairwork report from two to four points.
Despite its low points award, Fairwork recognised that Deliveroo, along with delivery service Stuart, had introduced sickness insurance schemes and other measures that provide a limited social safety net for their workers. There were also improvements at Amazon Flex, which has introduced a policy that does not hold delivery drivers liable for lost, stolen, or damaged parcels – a major problem couriers have experienced in the sector. There have also been improvements around data protection and the use of facial recognition technology at ride-sharing firm Ola.
In May 2022, Deliveroo signed a deal with the GMB union which gave its workers new rights when it came to disputes, collective bargaining on pay, and consultation rights on benefits and other issues, including health, safety and wellbeing. But the deal was criticised by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which said the company was “seeking endorsement for exploitative practices” because the deal did not ensure its couriers would be paid the legal minimum wage throughout their whole working day.
The takeaway group did pledge to pay its 90,000 riders at least the minimum wage after costs but only while delivering an order, under the deal which recognised them as “self-employed”; their overall earnings per hour for the time they have set aside for work can fall below the legal minimum level.
Organised labour has been crucial to forcing companies such as Uber to recognise the reality of contractual relations between workers and the platform” – Dr Matthew Cole, Fairwork UK
Dr Matthew Cole, country lead of the Fairwork UK team, said the findings reflected the hard work of workers’ representative bodies, such as the App Drivers & Couriers Union, the GMB, Nanny Solidarity Network and the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain. He said: “The improvements we see in this new round of ratings for the UK platform economy are the result of the organising efforts of unions and workers associations. Organised labour has been crucial to forcing companies such as Uber to recognise the reality of contractual relations between workers and the platform.”
He added that legal challenges brought by these unions had changed the regulatory landscape by putting pressure on platforms and legislators to improve working conditions for platform workers. “However, still 13 of the 15 companies analysed could not evidence they support collective representation. We call on all platforms to recognise and negotiate with their workers.”
Dr Mark Graham, director of the Fairwork project and Professor of Internet Geography at the Oxford Internet Institute, said: “Nobody should be earning below the minimum wage or be dismissed without due process. As much as we would like to applaud high scores in the Fairwork league table, it is important to remember that even a 10/10 means that only basic minimum standards of fairness have been attained.”
There was still a “mountain to climb” before all platform workers in the UK could benefit from basic minimum standards of decent work, he said.