For many of those unfortunate contractors selected for IR35 enquiry, they face an uphill battle in getting their end client onside, due to a reluctance and resistance to get involved with HMRC. Even when they do, their representative may unwittingly use employment terminology in describing the working arrangements between the two parties.
Deliveroo, the online food delivery company, on the other hand are very proactive in helping to preserve the self-employed status of their couriers who deliver takeaways. They have produced a six-page document, which the Guardian newspaper recently obtained, for use by their managers which states couriers should always be referred to as “independent suppliers” rather than employees, workers, staff or team members. It also sets out a list those expressions that should and should not be used when referring to the working practices of their riders, including:
|Do say||Don’t say|
|Independent supplier, e.g “We offer riders hours of work and they choose how many to accept based on their availability and the areas they want to work in.”||Employee, worker, staff or team member, e.g “Drivers are employed by Deliveroo to complete deliveries.”|
|Onboarding, e.g “Before working with us, riders complete a programme of app demonstration, safety guidance and documentation checks.”||Hiring. “Before their first shift drivers must complete a trial session.”|
|Supply centre||Hiring office/hiring centre|
|Supplier agreement, e.g “Your supplier agreement may be terminated if you continue to fail to meet the service delivery standards.”||Employment contract, e.g “You are obliged by your employment contract to hit certain performance targets.”|
|Working with Deliveroo, e.g “While you are working with Deliveroo as an independent supplier, we would typically expect you to accept 95% of orders you are available to perform when logged in.”||Working for Deliveroo, e.g “Our drivers work for Deliveroo.”|
|Riders choosing an area of work, e.g “Riders choose to work with us in localised areas to enable them to complete orders safely within time estimate.”||Assigning riders to a zone, e.g “Drivers are assigned to their zone based on where we need them most.”|
|Kit/equipment/branded clothing, e.g “If you purchased an equipment pack when you started working with Deliveroo, please bring it back to the supply centre, where we will repurchase it from you.”||Uniform, e.g “Please return the uniform you were issued with to the hiring office and we will refund your deposit.”|
|Availability, e.g “Please indicate your availability via Staffomatic.”||Shifts/sessions/hours, e.g “We schedule riders shifts in Staffomatic.”|
|Unavailability notification, e.g “If you are unavailable for work for a prolonged period of time/at a previously agreed time, please let us know.”||Absence request/booking a holiday/asking for time off, e.g “If you want time off, you must book a holiday.”|
|Inactivity, e.g “According to the system, your rider app has been inactive since…”||AWOL/unexplained absence, e.g “According to the system you have been absent for….”|
|Logging in||Starting a shift/starting a session/clocking in|
|Fees, e.g “Maximise fees at our busiest time.”||Wages/salary/earnings/pay, e.g “Maximise earnings this weekend.”|
|Invoice, e.g “Rider invoices are processed fortnightly.”||Payslip/wage slip/statement of earnings, e.g “We will pay you every two weeks.”|
|Fee per delivery, e.g “The fee-per-delivery payment system has been designed to allow you to maximise your fees with complete flexibility.”||Piece rate/delivery bonus/delivery rate/drop fee, e.g “Working on a piece rate allows you to earn more at busy times.”|
|Service delivery standards, e.g “Refer to your latest Service Delivery Standards Assessment to see whether you are meeting the Service Delivery Standards.”||Performance review/performance assessment, e,g “Refer to your performance review to see whether or not you are hitting our targets.”|
|Supplier agreement review||Performance management/disciplinary meeting/ (final) warning|
|Termination, e.g “We are terminating your Supplier Agreement due to your failure to meet Service Delivery Standards.”||Firing/sacking/resignation, e.g “We are firing you due to poor performance.”|
|Rider community/Roo community||(Driver) fleet/driver team/team members/our riders|
A Deliveroo spokesperson told the Guardian, “We have almost 1,000 full-time staff and work with over 15,000 riders in the UK. We ensure that employees know how to work with our partners, which includes training and guidelines to follow when talking to customers, restaurants, and of course self-employed riders.”
Deliveroo, like other gig-economy companies such as Uber, CitySprint and Excel, use business models that engage thousands of self-employed contractors, saving them £millions in tax, NIC and employment rights. However, the latter three firms have recently fallen foul of the Employment Tribunal who found a number of contractors to be workers and therefore entitled to limited rights including holiday pay and minimum wage. Now, a group of couriers are planning to take similar action against Deliveroo.
Legal firm, Leigh Day, says it has 200 riders ready to take similar legal action, supporting their view that they are employees because they undergo a trial shift, wear a uniform and are paid at a set rate, with no say over terms and conditions. Deliveroo also closely monitor the riders’ movements and carry out performance reviews.
Whilst Deliveroo’s motives for maintaining their couriers self-employed status may be questionable, if end clients followed a similar line where genuinely protecting the contractors’ IR35 status was the prime motive, then this could minimise tax enquiry times and give the freelancer some certainty.