MPs brand employment contracts as ‘gibberish’

News Article

MPs who are investigating a number of companies involved the so called ‘gig economy’, have branded some contracts as ‘gibberish and ‘almost unintelligible.’

The criticisms from the Work and Pensions Select Committee follow an in-depth look at the working practices of taxi provider, Uber, takeaway courier firm, Deliveroo and e-retail giant, Amazon.

Frank Field, chair of the select committee commented: “Quite frankly the Uber contract is gibberish.

“They are well aware that many, if not most, of their drivers speak English as a second language – they recently lost a court case trying to escape Transport for London’s new English testing rules for private hire drivers – yet their contract is almost unintelligible.”

The gig economy refers to the growing number of workers classed as self-employed

Mr Field stated that all three companies which had come under the committee’s scrutiny had utilised various types of “egregious clause” in a bid to stop workers from challenging their “self-employed” status, although the committee felt that neither Uber’s nor Amazon’s contract went as far as Deliveroo’s.

“The way they work looks in most ways an awful lot like being employed,” said Mr Field. “These companies parade the “flexibility” their model offers to drivers but it seems the only real flexibility is enjoyed by the companies themselves. It does seem a marvellous business model if you can get away with it.

“My worry is that as a result these companies contribute little to the public purse or our social safety net. They are not paying sick leave, national living wage, or contributing to pensions. Yet it seems likely that their employment practices will lead more people to need taxpayers to pick up these costs.”

Following the Committee’s findings, Deliveroo’s Managing Director, Dab Warne, confirmed a clause, which insists its workers agree not to legally challenge their self-employed status, will be removed from all contracts ‘in the coming weeks.’

Lara Murray, an Associate Solicitor and employment law expert said: “Although the select committee was damning in its criticism of all three companies, Deliveroo in particular was singled out for its controversial contract – which effectively sought to prevent its workers from using the proper legal channels to resolve employment disputes.

“Now the investigation by the select committee has resulted in Deliveroo agreeing to remove this clause in a bid to make its employment contracts both legal and transparent.

“Although gig economy companies have come in for a great deal of criticism in recent months, it serves as a timely lesson for all employers to check that their employment contracts are legally compliant.”

For help and advice with all aspects of employment law including the drafting of employee contracts, please contact us.