Just Eat is to offer 1,500 takeaway couriers in Liverpool minimum pay, sick pay and holiday pay by the end of the year as it shifts away from using independent contractors.
The food delivery group, which recently began building its own courier network in the UK alongside putting customers in touch with takeaways that carry out their own delivery, said it would expand a worker model for couriers that it was already operating in London and Birmingham, where 2,000 riders had signed up.
The latest expansion comes after the Just Eat boss, Jitse Groen, said he wanted to end gig-working across Europe at his company. Like rivals including Deliveroo, most of the takeaways delivered via Just Eat are transported by self-employed contractors without guaranteed pay or paid sick leave. Some are under direct contracts and some work via courier firms such as Stuart.
The group’s new model stops short of giving riders full benefits enjoyed by employees, but as “workers” – employed via the independent Randstad agency which Just Eat’s parent company uses across Europe – they are entitled to more than the legal minimum in hourly pay, pension contributions and benefits including holiday pay and sick pay.
Riders also work set shifts, are provided with e-bikes or e-mopeds, which are maintained by the company, and will have the option to operate from a central hub, where they can pick up equipment and take breaks. They can no longer work for several other apps at the same time as delivering for Just Eat.
Andrew Kenny, the UK managing director of Just Eat, said: “We recognise our responsibility to provide couriers with the best possible opportunities and we’re delighted that almost 2,000 jobs have already been created as part of our worker model. We’ve reached this milestone significantly ahead of schedule and following a positive response in London and Birmingham, we’re excited to roll this out to Liverpool, creating 1,500 more roles this year.
“We believe giving couriers access to the benefits and security associated with a model like this is the right thing to do and we’re hugely ambitious to grow this further out across the UK.”
The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain said Just Eat’s new model was “a step in the right direction but still not where it should be to offer a sustainable job that people can build a life around”.
Alex Marshall, the president of the union, which represents gig-economy workers, said riders were paid little more than the legal minimum wage per hour. He added that gig-economy riders working for the likes of the courier firm Stuart, which had been previously delivering takeaways ordered via Just Eat in many UK cities, were not being offered first choice of the new roles.
“It would be good if they spoke to workers about what they want rather than a PR stunt,” he said.
Just Eat said that its new worker roles were “open to anyone that wants to apply to them and [current] riders are not discouraged from applying”.
The changes in the UK come after the £6.2bn merger of Just Eat with the Dutch business Takeaway.com, which was finalised earlier this year as well as a shift in sentiment towards the employment of independent contractors, who are not entitled to sick pay, holiday pay or the minimum wage.
Gig economy companies are having to consider change after Uber was forced to pay its UK private hire drivers minimum wage and holiday pay when the UK supreme court backed a 2016 employment tribunal ruling that its drivers should be classed as workers.
The takeaway courier business Deliveroo’s stock market debut was hit by concerns about the employment status of its workers after it emerged that the company had set aside £112m to cover potential legal costs relating to efforts to improve their rights.