Employment status and the GIG economy have received unprecedented media coverage over the past 12 months. The reality of the working relationships and conditions those engaged in this industry often face have been exposed and subjected to scrutiny. In light of this, Jennifer Linford, Solicitor-Advocate in Lodders’ Employment Team discusses the issue of who should be responsible for completing the visa and criminal record checks of ‘substitutes’?
It is probably a direct result of this limelight that other issues and questions began to surface. The Sunday Times were quick to investigate the operational mechanism used by those running these highly lucrative industries (namely Deliveroo and Uber Eats). The investigation revealed a “Black Market” of jobs being traded online, via Facebook and WhatsApp, without criminal records and visa requirements being checked.
Deliveroo told The Sunday Times that visa and criminal records checks are completed on all of its riders. However, if a rider appoints a ‘substitute’ to complete a job on their behalf, it is their responsibility to check their substitute’s visa and criminal records (before appointing them). However, the investigation discovered that Deliveroo and Uber Eats allow workers to alter the phone number and bank account details connected with approved accounts: thus facilitating the ‘renting out’ and ‘trading’ of jobs and accounts, without any of the legal and visa requirements being checked first. It appears that the likes of Deliveroo and Uber Eats are turning a blind eye to this alleged problem and simply pointing the finger of blame at the riders; whilst continuing to financially benefit from the ‘arrangement’.
The requirement to check an individual’s ‘right to work’ only applies to employees. Therefore, those using self-employed contractors are able to avoid the possibility of being fined for taking on members of staff that do not have permission to work in the UK. The arguably apparent loophole in the Home Office system is, perhaps, being exploited and arguably facilitating the exploitation of those engaged in this industry. The stability of the UK’s economy is questionable and the exposure of this (alleged) hidden industry is alarming. The possibility of the GIG economy being the subject of further legal scrutiny appears likely.
Deliveroo and Uber Eats do not accept The Sunday Times’ allegations, stating that they are unsubstantiated.
“In my opinion, the government needs to commission an independent review of this situation. The apparent risk that individuals are being exploited, working without being held accountable for national insurance and/ or without criminal record checks being properly carried out, cannot (and should not) be ignored” explains Jennifer.
“Legal guidance is needed to determine who should be responsible for ensuring that those who are representing their business have the right to work in the UK and that they satisfy the companies’ criminal record check requirements.”
Lodders’ team of employment solicitors offer accurate, focused and solution-based legal advice to a wide range of clients. We have forged an excellent reputation for advising SME’s, publicly owned companies, charities, and other bodies; as well as senior employees and stakeholders in respect of all manner of employment and commercial related issues, including rich experience in respect of employment status and regulatory issues.