HR · 20 June 2017

A damning insider’s account of working for Deliveroo

Pressure from he parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee led Deliveroo to scrap a clause preventing riders from working for other companies
Pressure from the parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee led Deliveroo to scrap a clause preventing riders from working for other companies

From humble beginnings in 2012 to a valuation of more than £1bn, it’s been a meteoric rise for the tech startup now synonymous with courier-delivered food. But what’s it really like working for Deliveroo? Business Advice brings you a damning indictment.

From students to freelancers, and from the unemployed to fitness freaks, working for Deliveroo has provided thousands of Brits with casual work which they can pick up and drop as they choose. But is it as simple as that.

Recent evidence has pointed towards exploitative practices and an environment that is anything but supportive to casual shifts taken at a worker’s will.

To lift the lid on what it is really like working for Deliveroo, in essentially a freelance, self-employed role, Business Advice heard from Jane – a delivery rider who started taking shifts in Oxford in the summer of 2016.

She’s exclusively provided her insider’s account.

“The fundamental issue with Deliveroo is that you are said to be ‘self-employed’ and ‘providing services’ to Deliveroo, yet you are still told what to do regarding uniform, hours to work, which days you have to work, etc.

“When you apply you are given an unpaid trial shift and follow a Deliveroo cyclist or a moped driver around for two hours while they take orders – presumably so they can see if you are competent in riding/driving. They pick the ones that have been there longest – apparently no one really stays for over a year merely as a cyclist/moped rider – but this could just be in Oxford specifically.

“When I joined last summer, I was told (by the Deliveroo cyclist on my trial shift) that you had to do two obligatory evening weekend shifts.

“My friend, who joined a few months after this, was told the same thing ‘informally’ and then he read through the entire contract himself. There was no mention of this ‘rule’ whatsoever.

“People on a group WhatsApp [a messaging app] were told by ‘lead riders’ (essentially your bosses – but you are also self-employed, so shouldn’t technically have this kind of hierarchy) there would be ‘strikes’ if people did not work these ‘obligatory’ shifts (two of the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night shifts).

“He got into a strange situation with the two lead riders that I don’t feel I have authority to disclose purely because I heard it very much from one side. He basically posted on this WhatsApp group of Oxford Deliveroo drivers saying that this obligatory two weekend minimum rule was ‘bullshit’ and therefore he was confronted.

“Another very new issue for me personally is the new pay scheme. Initially, when I joined in Oxford the pay was £6 per hour with a £1 per drop extra. However, I have recently switched (after much advertising and suggesting from Deliveroo) onto the pay scheme where there is no hourly fee and instead £3.75 per drop.

“I know that there was huge resistance to this new scheme in London, and Deliveroo says it better because you can earn far more – but I emailed one morning recently and said I wanted to return to the old scheme and was told my change will happen on 9 July.

“This is ridiculous considering the date is about three weeks away and it took them under 24 hours to ask, and put me onto the new scheme.

“When it’s quiet, and there aren’t many orders, this means that you can find yourself waiting, with your bike, in the street for potentially ten, 15 or 20 minutes –  at this point you are not getting paid at all.

“The benefit of the previous scheme (despite fairly rubbish pay still) was that in the summer months, if it was super hot, you could even relax on a bit of greenery (if you chose a quiet afternoon shift) and wait for orders. This was fine because you may be getting paid a small wage, you were still getting paid for waiting.

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“I think that, for students, working for Deliveroo is fine and, to be honest, perfect. It is flexible, and you don’t technically need to answer to anyone. I used to take it super seriously, and treated it like any other bar job (I always been really bad at saying no to extra shifts, quitting jobs I don’t have time for, etc) and therefore felt like I could never just not turn up to a shift. But, as this was my last year of university, I realised that if you just don’t get on the bike for the shift you are assigned to, nothing really happened. This is a huge bonus for students, for example, or people that have another career, and therefore working for Deliveroo is just a side thing.

“For people whose sole, or prominent income, is Deliveroo – then I imagine these ‘flexible benefits’ (in that, the company owes you nothing as they say, and therefore – you owe them nothing) are not necessarily as beneficial. When it becomes quieter and there are tonnes of riders, recruited during the winter months when everyone was ordering food, on the road then the quest for shifts becomes more difficult – and this is where it becomes selective.

“The slower riders, for example, or those who do not perform as well are not assigned to a shift they apply for and are not given an explanation – it is all electronically done. You log on to ‘Staffomatic’, apply for shifts, and are then assigned them or not.

“There was someone in Oxford last summer, as a case in point, who is older than most, if not all riders, and he posted on the WhatsApp group about how he was not being given any shifts and was in a really awful financial position. It is this kind of situation that is dark because the majority of people on the WhatsApp group are either students, or young guys who most likely have another income.

“I know that in London, as a rider, you are paid £7 an hour as opposed to the Oxford £6 (and to be fair, Oxford is very small, fairly flat, a lot less vehicle busy) but this is still not enough pay. The fundamental problem with working for Deliveroo is the pay. The pay scheme, that is £3.75 and no hourly pay, is also just super unsafe. The company is supposed to be ‘safety first’ but your pay being entirely dependent on your speed seems pretty unsafe.”

Jane has had her name changed to protect her anonymity.

If you’re thinking of hiring on-demand workers for your own company, our guide to hiring freelancers and embracing the gig economy is essential reading

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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