A union has won the first stage of a High Court challenge over the employment status of Deliveroo riders.
In the latest case involving workers’ rights in the gig economy, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) wants the court to overturn a ruling which confirmed the “self-employed” status of Deliveroo riders.
The decision was welcomed by the Labour party, who said the next Labour government would clamp down on “bogus” self-employment and strengthen employment rights for all workers.
Rebecca Long Bailey, shadow business, energy and industrial strategy secretary, said: “This is an important and positive step towards victory for workers and trade unions across the UK.
“Companies like Deliveroo and others have built their success on an exploitative business model, denying worker’s their rights and swerving their obligations under the law.”
Deliveroo claimed a victory following the ruling by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) in November last year.
The CAC, which considers union recognition and collective bargaining cases, rejected an application by the IWGB to represent drivers in parts of north London.
The committee concluded that because riders are able to pass on a job to a substitute, or to abandon a job, they were not obliged to provide a “personal service” and therefore could not be classified as “workers”.
The union argues that, as independent contractors, the riders are “denied basic employment rights” including a guaranteed minimum wage, holiday pay and collective bargaining rights.
It has been crowdfunding for the legal costs of the case and £23,000 has been raised so far.
Mrs Justice Simler rejected a number of the union’s arguments, but said it was “arguable” that the CAC should have considered the right of the Deliveroo riders to bargain collectively – as enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the union, said: “What’s happened today, is this case has become not just an employment rights issue, but rather a matter of fundamental human rights.
“Deliveroo should take a serious look at itself and ask itself whether it really wants to save a bit of money at the expense of the Human Rights of the individuals who make their business a success.”
No date was set for the case, which will be heard over a day and a half.
A spokesman for Deliveroo said the judge had clearly upheld the central finding of the CAC, which is that Deliveroo riders are self-employed.
“This is good news for Deliveroo riders who value the ability to choose when and where to work,” he added.
However, the spokesman said the court had allowed “a limited challenge on human rights grounds”.
He added: “Deliveroo has long argued that the self-employed should have access to greater protections, and we welcome any debate on how that can best be achieved.
“The decision was reached having considered the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the Pimlico Plumbers case, and emphatically rejects the union’s challenge based on this judgment.”