I have recently been asked a few questions about the law regarding cyclists who deliver food i.e. for companies like Deliveroo and UberEats.
The questions generally boil down to a) whether the business is liable if one of their riders injures someone or b) what duties the business has towards injured riders. Given that Deliveroo alone has over 5,000 riders across the UK it is understandable that people are concerned about these issues.
Is Deliveroo liable for accidents caused by their riders?
A company will be liable for the actions of their riders where it can be shown:
1. They are an employee, or in a relationship akin to employment; and
2. There is a sufficiently close connection between the employment and the wrongful act.
Cycle couriers are not employees so when assessing whether there was a relationship akin to employment, a court would look at factors such as: the extent of control the business has over the rider; whether the business provided tools or equipment to the rider; how central the activity being performed is to the business' enterprise, etc.
Whilst cycle couriers are not currently seen as employees I think it is likely that a court would find that they are in a relationship akin to employment. This would, however, depend on the specific relationship between the business and the rider.
For the second part of the test, a court would consider whether the wrongful act (i.e. cycling causing a collision) was closely connected to the job they were doing. Given that the job is specifically to deliver food by bicycle, a court would be very likely to find that this part of the test is met where there has been a collision.
On that basis, it is likely that a business like Deliveroo or UberEats would be liable for collisions caused by their riders.
What duties does Deliveroo have to injured riders?
Riders for Deliveroo are not technically employees. This means that they are not entitled to the basic rights enjoyed by employees such as sick pay. On that basis, there is no general right to pay where a rider is injured whilst cycling in the course of their job.
In most cases, bringing a claim against the road user who caused the incident may be the only recourse. However, there are times when a business will be liable for an incident. For instance, Deliveroo may have provided an item of work equipment (e.g. a courier bag) which is faulty and causes a cyclist to have an accident. Alternatively, they may be at fault for failing to provide adequate training. In circumstances such as these a business could be held at fault and would need to compensate the rider accordingly.
It is worth noting that, although cycle couriers are not currently seen as employees, there is currently a legal action pending which is challenging this. In my view, it is inequitable for a business whose sole purpose is delivering goods to avoid all responsibility for those who are injured whilst delivering those goods, particularly given that couriers are financially incentivised to ride quickly as they get paid by the job. Cycle couriers bear a significant risk of injury for dangers outside of their control because of the amount of time they spend on the road and they should be protected accordingly.
Cycle couriers rarely make much more than the minimum wage. Given the relatively low pay they do not get the chance to build up reserves for when they can't work through injury. I have had clients who are couriers who have continued working whilst suffering from a fracture as they cannot afford to stop working, which is not uncommon. I hope the time will come soon when couriers are entitled to paid holidays, sick pay, protection from unlawful discrimination, maternity leave and redundancy pay.