In shocking revelations published today (28 April 2023), Oxford University researchers reveal that only two out of the twelve gig economy platforms they assessed could prove that their workers earn minimum wage after costs. In their third annual report on the UK gig economy, researchers based at the Oxford Internet Institute, part of the University of Oxford, highlight the best and worst platform companies according to how they treat their workers.
As the cost of daily essentials has risen and in-place hospitality has reopened, consumer demand for platform and app-based services like food delivery or ride-hailing has fallen. Rising inflation has also led investors to demand profitability from platform companies, leading in some cases to cuts on existing protections for workers.
How have the platforms adapted to market changes, and which are faring best in relation to supporting their workers? This year’s Fairwork UK report ‘Fairwork UK Ratings 2023: A Call for Transparency‘ evaluates working conditions at 12 of the most popular digital labour platforms in the country – Amazon Flex, Bolt, Deliveroo, Free Now, Getir, Gorillas, Just Eat, Pedal Me, Stuart, Task Rabbit, Uber, and Uber Eats.
Key findings are:
Fair Pay: Only 2 of the 12 platforms (Pedal Me and Getir) could prove their workers earn the minimum wage after costs.
Fair Conditions: 7 out of 12 platforms (Pedal Me, Getir, Stuart, Amazon Flex, Deliveroo, Gorillas, and Uber) provided evidence of sufficient protection from the task-related risks, such as safety equipment without cost, emergency response systems, and free insurance.
Fair Contracts: 7 out of 12 platforms (Pedal Me, Getir, Stuart, Deliveroo, Gorillas, Just Eat, and Amazon Flex) provided evidence of clear and accessible contracts or terms of service.
Fair Management: Only 3 out of 12 platforms (Pedal Me, Getir and Stuart) were able to demonstrate effective due process for appealing ratings and terminations. Whilst many of the platforms were able to evidence anti-discrimination statements, only these 3 could demonstratee meaningful ways how they were putting their policies into action.
Fair Representation: Only 2 platforms so far (Uber and Deliveroo) allow for collective representation of workers. At Pedal Me, the principle of voluntary recognition with the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has been accepted and they are now negotiating its details.
How the platforms compare against each other
The report ranks platforms against five principles of fair work, giving each company a score out of ten. Pedal Me topped the ranking with a score of 8 out of 10, followed by Getir (7) and Stuart (5). The study found that most other companies, such as Deliveroo, Just Eat, and Uber, could not prove they meet basic standards of fair work – such as ensuring all workers earn above the national minimum wage. However, through dialogue with Fairwork, some platforms like Stuart or Getir have made changes to their policies and practices that will improve conditions for workers.
Research Lead Dr Adam Badger said:
“2023 has been a challenging year for platform workers, with a depression in demand following the boom in work and tech financing during the pandemic. In many cases, workers have borne the brunt of this market uncertainty, with platforms outsourcing heavy risks onto their workforces. At a time of economic hardship for families across the UK, now more than ever people need work that is fair and decent. Our research demonstrates that most platforms are failing to ensure work that meets even basic criteria of fairness. We hope to work with workers, platforms and politicians in the year ahead to encourage positive change.”