Just Eat plans to make 1,700 couriers redundant from as the takeaway delivery firm reverts back to a gig economy model and scraps guaranteed minimum pay, sick pay and holiday pay. The couriers are currently engaged as ‘workers’ will be replaced by self-employed individuals.
The decision has been described as “a risky move” and “hypocritical”, given Just Eat’s history of supporting gig economy workers, ensuring they receive statutory worker benefits.
Just Eat began offering worker contracts in 2020 and signed up more than 3,000 of its couriers in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Cambridge and Brighton. Those numbers have since fallen to 1,700 as riders have moved on. Just Eat has offered fewer couriers its new deal and riders have been given six weeks’ notice with pay.
Now the firm is backtracking, which is hypocritical, to say the least. If Just Eat can’t compete unless their couriers are all self-employed, the gig economy model needs a rethink.
Andy Prendergast, the national secretary of the GMB union, commented: “Just Eat’s decision to lay off 1,700 workers is a betrayal of those who have worked so hard for the company. At the exact moment when rivals like Deliveroo are offering improved benefits and sick pay, this is a backward step that underlines the need for minimum standards for delivery workers.”
Of course it’s cheaper and easier to engage everyone as self-employed, but that’s not to say it’s compliant or fair on these individuals. And if it isn’t genuine self-employment then it’s exploitation – simple as that.
There are risks to their plans – if a tribunal found that these couriers aren’t self-employed, Just Eat will face the massive cost of backdating holiday pay and other statutory worker rights.
A business can’t arbitrarily decide that someone is self-employed – it comes down to the facts of the situation and the specific characteristics of the engagement. Yet Just Eats does appear to be making the arbitrary decision despite previously concluding that self-employment was inappropriate.