Backed by the Transport Workers Union (TWU), a Canberra man is taking online food delivery company Deliveroo to court, alleging he was underpaid as an “employee” over the 10-month period he worked for them.
The case has been lodged in the Federal Circuit Court with a first hearing scheduled for 8 October.
Former Deliveroo rider Jeremy Rhind told Canberra Weekly he started working for the company as a second job for some extra money.
“At the end of the year I was doing my financials and didn’t realise until then how extremely low paid it was, how illegally low paid it was. It ended up being half minimum wage.”
Mr Rhind did the job sporadically, roughly once a fortnight, over the 2017-18 financial year.
“The rates were explained in the employment documentation, and for me it was $8.55 per delivery. You only know after some time how that translates to an hourly rate, depending on how busy or quiet you’ve been,” he said.
“In a busy period, you can do two or two-and-a-half deliveries per hour depending on how far they are.
“Mixed in with that there are days that are quiet when you end up standing around waiting for an order to come through, and that brought the average right down,” he said.
When Mr Rhind decided to take action about this, he reached out to the company.
“There was basically a brick wall there so my only other option was to start a court action in the Federal Circuit Court.”
The key legal decision point for the case will be whether Deliveroo riders are considered contractors or employees.
“I’m alleging I’m an employee and Deliveroo is maintaining I was a contractor … There’s a lot of nuance and detail, but the key point of my view is I don’t think anyone should be paid less than minimum wage, regardless of whether they’re a contractor or employee,” Mr Rhind said.
A Deliveroo spokeswoman said they offer “well-paid, flexible work” to their riders, “all of whom are independent contractors”.
“This enables riders to choose when, where and whether to work, with the flexibility and freedom riders repeatedly tell us they want.
“On average, Deliveroo riders in Australia work 15 hours a week, earning over $22.00 per hour … fitting riding around study, hobbies, caring responsibilities or other work.”
Deliveroo riders do not work in set shift patterns, instead choosing when to work, and doing so for as long as they like. They can also take as much time off as they please.
“If riders were employees, the flexibility they enjoy today would be removed and they would have to work exclusively for Deliveroo in fixed shift patterns,” she said.
Deliveroo riders are not required to perform any work, and are free to reject work at any time.
Riders do not have to work exclusively for Deliveroo, and have the capacity to work across multiple platforms at the same time.
The Fair Work Ombudsman considered Deliveroo’s early models and contracts and on 26 April 2018 made a decision not to continue its investigation of Deliveroo.