Tension between what is meant by an individual carrying out work in a self-employed capacity and how that differs from an individual simply being classified as a worker has led to a number of legal challenges that made the news in recent months.

Uber, City Sprint, Excel, Pimlico Plumbers are just a few of the companies that have lost cases in the Employment Tribunal. The claimants were all found to be ‘workers’ rather than self-employed contractors and therefore entitled to certain employment rights including the right to receive the national minimum wage and the right to get paid holiday. The dispute is expected to continue though as Uber’s appeal will proceed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal later this year and more challenges appear to be in the pipeline.

The latest case to make the headlines involves a group of Deliveroo couriers who want employment rights despite the companies being set up based on the business model position that their riders are all self-employed contractors.

Possibly connected to the threat of legal action The Guardian has reported that it has seen a list of phrases that management have been told to use in relation to the riders story in The Guardian.

The ‘Newspeak’ or maybe it could be called ‘Deliveroospeak’ sets out words and phrases that management should and should not use. The list is extensive but examples include:-

“Onboarding” not “Hiring”;

“Supply centre” not “Hiring office”;

“Supplier agreement” not “Employment contract”;

“Kit/equipment” not “Uniform”;

“Unavailability notification” not “Booking a holiday or asking for time off”;

“Fees” not “Wages”;

“Invoice” not “Payslip”;

“Service delivery standards” not “Performance review”.

The unions are reportedly referring to this new vocabulary as an attempt to hide the true status of the individuals engaged to carry out the work. However,there are good reasons for wanting management to get the terminology right. Not only will it prevent the possibility of damaging evidence being presented in the Tribunal but it may also dissuade others from within the organisation challenging their self-employed status. It was after all George Orwell who introduced the concept of ‘Newspeak’ in his novel ‘1984’ which was aimed in that world of ensuring that no-one would be capable of even conceptualising anything that might question what the authorities told them.

Not that Deliveroo would intend such a thing as was made clear to the Work & Pensions Committee when it committed to remove from its standard contract the explicit provision which required its couriers to agree that they were not workers, and to agree not to challenge their self-employed status in court.

This blog post was written by Chris Davies. For further information, please contact:

Chris Davies, Employment

T: 0161 836 7936

E: Christopher.Davies@gateleyplc.com 

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This blog is intended only as a synopsis of certain recent developments. If any matter referred to in this blog is sought to be relied upon, further advice should be obtained.