What can cycle couriers do to protect themselves?

Posted by Oliver Jeffcott on
cycling courier

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As a solicitor specialising in cycling cases, I am often asked about the law for cycle couriers. The rise of companies who use cyclists to deliver food, such as Deliveroo and UberEats, has added another dimension to this.

This on-demand, or so-called gig, economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation. But it is also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.- Hillary Clinton

Deliveroo alone has over 5,000 riders across the UK. They have recently had their cyclists going on strike over changes to their contracts of working. Given the number of people working in these industries it is important that they understand their rights.

How can couriers protect themselves if they are injured?

Currently bicycle couriers are considered self-employed contractors. This means they are not entitled to workers' rights such as sick pay, holiday pay, minimum wage, discrimination protection, pension contributions or maternity/paternity pay.

Couriers in London cycle around 60-80 miles a day in London and are normally paid between £2 and £3 per delivery. Travelling this distance in London traffic brings an inherent risk of injury following a collision. I have represented a number of couriers in such circumstances who are unable to work following an incident and get into debt and financial difficulties as a result.

There is insurance that couriers can get to protect themselves against the risk of injury. However, given that couriers earn around the minimum wage and already have to pay for the upkeep of their bicycle out of their salary there is little uptake of this.

Where the courier has a strong case against the other road user they can bring a claim. In many cases their solicitor can then request an interim payment to be offset against any damages they later receive.

If injured in a hit and run accident or by an uninsured driver there are still options. They may still be able to get compensation through the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB). All motor insurance policies contribute to this fund which covers hit and run incidents and also incidents caused by uninsured drivers.

Where a courier is injured and it is their fault it becomes more difficult. In these circumstances, a courier in the capital could get some help from the London Courier's Emergency Fund. This is a charitable organisation which provides support and financial help to bicycle couriers who have suffered injury.

Are they really self-employed?

While couriers are currently seen as self-employed, there is currently a legal action under way trying to overturn this view. Some may query why riders for companies like Deliveroo are any different from other self-employed people. However, couriers are arguing that they tend to work for one firm (often for 50 hours a week) and are not permitted to take work from other companies. The businesses often have a high level of control of the riders; they have to wear a uniform and ID tag and cannot get somebody else to deliver the goods.

There are three tiers of employment status; employees, workers and self-employed. If couriers can show that they are workers or employees then they would be entitled to significantly higher level of rights than they currently enjoy including sick pay, holiday pay and minimum wage. An estimated 4.8 million people in the UK are self-employed, so the legal challenge has far reaching implications.

The transit of goods is at the very centre of courier businesses. The parcel carried by the courier will normally be insured by the company. These businesses should also bear the risk of the harm caused to their workers during the delivery. 

You can also find advice on what to do if you are in a cycling accident on our guide.

This article has appeared in the following publications:

Business Advice - http://ow.ly/K5jq303BnjQ

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About the Author

Oliver is an Associate Solicitor in our Personal Injury team based in our London office.

Oliver Jeffcott
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020 7014 5252

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