COMMONS

Gig economy contracts "unintelligible", contain questionable clauses

06 April 2017

The Work and Pensions Committee has published the contracts it has received in its inquiry into Self-employment and the gig economy, and related correspondence. Some of the problems of the contracts - the clauses they contain and the way they are written - were highlighted in the evidence session with Uber, Hermes, Deliveroo  and Amazon, and the Committee asked to see copies of them, which they have now supplied.

Self-employed status not to be challenged in court

Some key points that emerge from the contracts include:

  • Uber's contract is "unintelligible" - which they acknowledge in their letter
  • Deliveroo's contract explicitly requires its couriers to agree that they are not workers, and to agree not to challenge their self-employed status in court. The company said in oral evidence on February 22 that this clause would "disappear". Their letter to the Committee now commits to removing it "within the coming weeks"
  • Section 13 of Uber's contract contains a clause on not disputing self-employed status - similar to Deliveroo's, as was discussed in the evidence session
  • Section 2 of Amazon's contract performs a similar function to section 13 of Uber's contract - although neither goes as far as Deliveroo's in getting couriers to agree not to challenge their status in court
  • Whether any of these clauses are legally enforceable is perhaps not the point: the intention appears to be to put people off challenging their status, including not going to court, and trying to obtain employment rights that may be due to them

Chair's comment

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:

"Quite frankly the Uber contract is gibberish. They 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 TfL's new English testing rules for private hire drivers - yet their contract is almost unintelligible. And it, like Deliveroo's, contains this egregious clause about not challenging the official designation of "self-employed", when the way they work looks in most ways an awful lot lie being employed.

These companies parade the "flexibility" their model offers to drivers but it seems the only real flexibility is enjoyed by the companies themselves. It does seem a marvellous business model if you can get away with it."

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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