A committee of MPs has harshly criticised the practices of some of the most high-profile companies within what has come to be known as the gig economy.
The car-hailing technology giant Uber has come in for particular criticism with Frank Field MP describing the contracts used to define the terms of the relationship between Uber and its drivers as “gibberish” and “almost unintelligible”.
“Quite frankly the Uber contract is gibberish,” said Mr Field, who chairs the parliamentary work and pensions select committee, which is investigating a variety of issues within the gig economy sector.
“They [Uber] are well aware that many, if not most, of their drivers speak English as a second language – they recently lost a court case trying to escape Transport for London’s new English testing rules for private hire drivers – yet their contract is almost unintelligible,” he said.
Uber and Deliveroo, among others, have been accused of avoiding various financial liabilities that fall upon most businesses by having the drivers and riders who deliver their services to end users retain their status as self-employed parties.
As self-employed service providers rather than employees, Uber’s drivers and Deliveroo’s riders are not entitled to benefits such as sick or holiday pay, which then potential saves those companies considerable sums of money.
For their part, gig economy companies have said that their business models enable a growing number of people throughout the UK and elsewhere to work on the basis of very flexible terms.
However, Mr Field and his committee have raised concerns that this flexibility is in fact only enjoyed by the companies themselves and not by the people who discharge services on their behalf.
“These companies parade the ‘flexibility’ their model offers to drivers but it seems the only real flexibility is enjoyed by the companies themselves,” Mr Field said.
“It does seem a marvellous business model if you can get away with it,” he added.
Meanwhile, the restaurant food delivery service company Deliveroo has seen its practices come under further scrutiny after various news outlets recently gained access to documents detailing the ways in which it aims to structure its relationship with its delivery riders.
The documents are reportedly designed to instruct Deliveroo managers in how to refer to and liaise with their riders, with the terms “employees”, “workers” or “staff” seemingly forbidden from being used within the company.
Crucially, the documents also apparently suggest that Deliveroo does not use employment contracts to define the terms of its relationships with riders but instead relies on “supplier agreements”.