Seery-Kearney calls for new employment status to ensure better employment rights for workers

27th February 2021 - Mary Seery-Kearney

Fine Gael Senator Mary Seery-Kearney has called for a new employment status to be introduced into existing laws to accommodate the flexibility of the so called “gig economy” while ensuring protections for workers.

Senator Seery-Kearney’s comments come after the UK Supreme Court recently found that Uber drivers were entitled to employee rights and protections and were not classified as self-employed.

The Senator, who has a background in employment law, said this finding could be applicable to Deliveroo workers in Ireland and that such an arrangement would iron out issues around working terms and conditions and their personal safety.

Senator Seery-Kearney said: “The Deliveroo fleet of cyclists are deemed to be self-employed individual contractors paid per delivery, rather than employees.  This means that while they have the benefit of the PRSI entitlements from the State, they are not guaranteed a minimum hourly rate, holiday pay, public holidays or other statutory leave entitlements that normally are afforded by an employer.

“I recently met with senior management in Deliveroo to discuss concerns around their engagement practices and the terms and conditions endured by vulnerable workers.

“I also raised the issue of ongoing concerns for the delivery riders’ personal safety after a number of attacks, bike thefts and incidents of anti-social behaviour against them were reported.

“Last week’s UK ruling arose out of the fact that there are three categories of employment status in the UK – self employed/independent contractor, employee and the hybrid model called “worker”, which marries the flexibility of the so called gig economy with rights more usually associated with employee status.

“We do not have this last category here. In my meetings and correspondence with Deliveroo I have argued that their business model relies on riders scrambling for deliveries to maximize their income for a shift.

“There can be accidents from the scramble to complete a drop and get the next order and we have all heard the reports of the sinister criminal and anti-social elements they have to encounter.”

Senator Seery-Kearney continued: “The company’s business model permits riders to “rent” out their phone to others not directly contracted to Deliveroo, which can on occasion unintentionally facilitate unlawful working as this could allow others to work in contravention of the working permissions in their visas.

“This can also mean they are reluctant to come forward to report attacks when they occur. They are forced to take matters into their own hands by avoiding delivering to whole swathes of the city to try and avoid hot spots for anti-social behavior.

“This has a cyclical effect in that crimes aren’t being reported, so anti-social behaviour hotspots aren’t coming on the garda radar, but communities are being stigmatized and denied services.”

Senator Seery Kearney concluded: “I’ve addressed this with the Minister for Justice, the Gardai, Dublin City Council, and now I have also written to the Tánaiste and Minister Damien English on the feasibility of this third hybrid category.

“I have put forward ideas on rights, taxation and supports that I believe would hold companies like Deliveroo to account in terms of their obligations to riders and provide the flexibility desired to make the business model work.

“We need to engage with the reality that the gig economy is a new mode of working, while at the same time ensure that it isn’t facilitating a race to the bottom and exploitative of the most vulnerable of workers.”

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