A gig worker is carrying a thermal blue bag on his back, while stopped in the middle of a city street.
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Report: Bolt and Amazon Flex among worst employers for UK gig workers

25 May 2021

Oxford University’s Fairwork Foundation is calling for stronger protection for UK gig workers after examining 11 popular platforms.

Researchers at Oxford University’s Fairwork Foundation have examined some of the best and worst practices in the gig economy in a new report.

Their findings on the pay, working conditions and more at 11 major online platforms – including Amazon Flex, Deliveroo and Uber – have pushed them to call for more regulation for freelance workers in the UK.

Fairwork researched conditions at Pedal Me, Just Eat, Deliveroo, TaskRabbit, Uber, Uber Eats, Helpling, Stuart, Amazon Flex, Bolt and Ola.

The report ranked each of the platforms according to five standards – fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management and fair representation – and scored them out of 10. The findings were based on desk research, communicating with the different platforms and interviewing gig workers.

Pedal Me, an e-cargo company headquartered in London, scored the highest overall with eight out of 10. According to the one of the report’s co-authors, Dr Alessio Bertolini, Pedal Me offers all of its workers employment contracts, which means they are entitled to “many employment rights from which UK platform workers are typically excluded”.

“For the first time, we have looked at companies offering taxi services, food delivery and courier and domestic services to rate them on how they treat their employees,” Bertolini added. “This provides a helpful guide for customers who use these platforms and the businesses that work with them.”

Apart from Pedal Me, most of the other platforms “failed to ensure many minimum standards of fair work”, researchers said, including allowing their workers to earn below the national minimum wage.

Bolt, Ola and Amazon Flex came bottom in the ratings and didn’t score any points.

Fairwork rankings

In terms of fair pay rankings, researchers said that just two of the 11 platforms – Pedal Me and Just Eat – guarantee a minimum wage for their workers after costs. They found no evidence of any of the platforms guaranteeing a living wage after costs for their workers.

Workers at six of the platforms receive sufficient protection from task-related risks in their daily jobs, the report said, and five of the platforms gave evidence of “clear and accessible” contracts or terms of service.

When it comes to management, only four platforms could evidence a formalised process for workers to appeal decisions. A single platform, Pedal Me, had implemented a process to allow workers to share their collective views with management and two platforms, Pedal Me and Deliveroo, have clear anti-discrimination policies.

Prof Mark Graham, director of the Fairwork Foundation and professor of internet geography at Oxford, said: “The low scores of many popular platforms in the Fairwork UK league table clearly demonstrate the need for regulatory intervention to ensure gig workers are no longer falling through the cracks, exacerbated through the pandemic.

“As part of our vision for a fairer future of work, we’re setting out a pathway to realise that ambition and one of the ways we’re doing that, in addition to calling for tougher regulation, is through the launch of the Fairwork Pledge. We urge others to sign up to the pledge today and help our vision of fair work become a reality for all platform workers.”

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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