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Employment

Uber Eats and Bolt ranked UK’s worst gig economy companies for working conditions

New research finds most food delivery and ride-hailing apps are failing to “ensure work that meets even basic criteria of fairness”

Uber Eats and Bolt have been ranked among the worst gig economy platforms to work for by University of Oxford researchers, who are calling for stronger protections for those in the gig economy.

Awarded scores of zero, Uber Eats and Bolt could not prove they meet any of the basic standards of fair work set by the researchers – such as ensuring all workers earn above the national minimum wage, providing workers with clear and accessible contracts, and keeping workers safe. 

The researchers also accused some platforms of cutting existing protections for workers in order to increase profitability as food delivery services contend with a tough economic climate. Demand for food delivery and ride-hailing has fallen as the cost of living crisis has left people with smaller budgets for luxuries. 

“At a time of economic hardship for families across the UK, now more than ever people need work that is fair and decent. Our research demonstrates that most platforms are failing to ensure work that meets even basic criteria of fairness.” said Dr Adam Badger, co-author of the Fairwork UK 2023 report.

In February, a man identified only as Mohammad, collapsed while delivering a takeaway to an apartment block in central London for platform Deliveroo. While the Deliveroo app kept alerting Mohammed to complete the delivery, nobody from the company called to check he was okay, James Farrar, the general secretary of the App Drivers and Couriers Union, told Mail Online. The incident sparked widespread concern over the lack of monitoring of workers while they are working for gig economy platforms. 

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After the incident, a spokesperson for Deliveroo said: “Riders are at the very heart of our business and their safety and well-being is our absolute priority.”

Deliveroo, Amazon Flex, Bolt, Free Now, Getir, Gorillas, Just Eat, Pedal Me, Stuart, Task Rabbit, Uber, and Uber Eats were all evaluated by Fairwork researchers according to how they treat their workers.

The London-based electric bicycle company Pedal Me and Turkish groceries service Getir were the only platforms that could prove their workers earn at least the minimum wage after costs.

Pedal Me topped the Fairwork rankings, followed by Getir and Stuart, which have both made changes to their policies and practices since last year’s ranking, which Fairwork believes improve conditions for workers.

Researchers also raised alarm bells that AI technology and algorithms are increasingly being used to monitor, control and discipline workers. The TUC has called on the government to bring in stronger rules to protect workers from companies using artificial intelligence to make life-changing decisions about workers’ lives.



Co-author Dr Funda Ustek-Spilda said: “Workers need to be given meaningful tools to understand how algorithmic decisions are made, how they impact the work they do, and shape the opportunities they have. In the UK, we need effective trade unions to fight for workers’ rights, to improve conditions, and increase fairness and dignity at work.”

Uber and Deliveroo were the only platforms so far that have recognised trade unions to allow collective bargaining on pay, and consultation rights on health and safety. In May last year, Deliveroo signed a landmark deal with union GMB, while Uber has recognised GMB since 2021.

Uber Eats and Bolt have been approached for comment. 

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