Earlier this week the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the long-running dispute concerning Deliveroo drivers and their status for trade union collective bargaining purposes.

The appeal was brought by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWUGB) following an earlier decision of the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) that Deliveroo delivery riders were self-employed rather than “workers” for the purposes of UK trade union rights. The appeal focused on Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which provides for the rights to freedom of association and to form and join trade unions. However, such rights only apply where there is an “employment relationship” in existence.

The Supreme Court unanimously held that no such relationship exists between Deliveroo and its delivery riders, who work under “supplier agreements” where Deliveroo is not obliged to provide work and riders are not obliged to accept jobs. The CAC had been entitled to conclude that the contract genuinely reflected the relationship between Deliveroo and its riders. Further relevant factors included that there were no penalties applied if riders did not accept a certain percentage of jobs or make themselves sufficiently available, and riders had a practically unfettered right to substitute a different rider for a job.

This is generally incompatible with the existence of an employment relationship. This decision is important for businesses operating in the gig economy, particularly technology companies seeking to implement similar platform business models. It can be contrasted with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Uber case in 2021, where it held that Uber’s operating model gave rise to “worker” employment rights for Uber drivers (including minimum wage, annual leave and pension contributions).

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