Late last year, we covered the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) case of IWGB v Roo Foods Limited t/a Deliveroo. Whilst we don’t usually cover cases from the CAC this case was relevant to the gig economy because it held Deliveroo couriers were not eligible for union recognition because of a clause in their contract that stated the work did not have to be undertaken personally (a key point on the employment status matrix).
The recent Pimlico Plumbers decision – whilst not a landmark point of law – has shown that the higher courts are willing to look at how the contract is performed, not how it is written. This could mean that a contract with a substitution clause will be worth very little if the worker cannot substitute in practice.
The case of IWGB v Deliveroo
However, IWGB, the trade union for the couriers, has appealed on a narrower human rights point. Under Article 11 of the European Convention for Human Rights, people have a right to assembly, including the right to form trade unions.
Whether the appeal will succeed remains to be seen but this is yet another example of how Government inertia has resulted in business practices outpacing the law. The inability to enact the Taylor report means employment status is a grey area and the Courts will be unwilling to make a landmark judgment (see Pimlico) because the law could all change when the Government updates statue.
As such, complex and convoluted court cases such as Pimlico, Uber, Addison Lee and Deliveroo have resulted in mixed results that do not give a finite definition of what self-employment is, which makes each case turn on its own facts.
These cases cost both parties an enormous amount as well as taking up valuable judicial resources. They also last several years once appeals are factored in and leave millions of people, and the companies that employ them, in the dark about their employment status. Swift definitions cannot come soon enough.