Spring in the step - Deliveroo riders not workers for trade union recognition

Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells

Independent trade unions are entitled to apply for compulsory recognition on behalf of workers in a bargaining unit if certain conditions are met.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWUGB) applied for recognition on behalf of various Deliveroo riders working in Camden and Kentish Town but its application failed because the riders were not workers within the meaning of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. A genuine right of substitution in their agreements with Deliveroo meant they were not obliged to provide personal service, which was a pre-requisite for worker status. The IWUGB unsuccessfully argued before the High Court that under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) it had a right to bargain on behalf of the riders and subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The issue for the Court of Appeal was whether Deliveroo riders were in an employment relationship for the purposes of the right to freedom of association under Article 11 of the ECHR. That had to be decided by reference to the International Labour Organization Recommendation on Employment Relationship (R198), not purely domestic principles. However, personal service was also an important feature of an employment relationship under ILO R198 and the CAC was entitled to treat the absence of personal service as decisive. In the absence of a decision of the European Court on Human Rights to the contrary, there was no reason to think that the approach of the CAC and domestic courts to the issue of personal service was incompatible with Article 11 and the IWUGB’s application failed.

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