Deliveroo PLC, Just Eat Takeaway.com NV, and Uber Eats are facing the possibility of being fined after a number of their delivery drivers were arrested as part of a Home Office crackdown on illegal immigration in the UK. Nearly 60 moped riders were arrested by police over a six-day period, with almost three-quarters of them being detained by the Home Office.
According to a spokesperson from Deliveroo, all riders must have the right to work in the UK to have an account with the company. The Home Office has been carrying out intelligence-gathering on gig economy workers, claiming an increase in immigration offences in London.
Employers found guilty of employing someone they knew or had “reasonable cause to believe” did not have the right to work in the UK could face up to five years in jail and pay an unlimited fine, with fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said, “Illegal working damages our communities, cheats honest workers out of employment and defrauds the public purse.”
However, the arrests have been met with criticism by the trade union that represents zero-hours contract workers in the industry. According to James Farrar, the General Secretary of the App Drivers and Couriers Union, “It is not the role of the police to make immigration checks on the streets in this way.” He added that delivery workers are already vulnerable due to the risk of exposure to modern slavery.
Farrar also accused the Metropolitan Police of destroying the trust of workers and called for a “more pragmatic and effective approach” that cooperates with trade unions representing gig economy workers.
Out of the arrested individuals, 44 have been detained by the Home Office, many of them from Brazil, with others from India and Algeria. The government department is expecting several of these cases to lead to “voluntary departure from the UK” while some may result in deportation.
This situation has drawn attention to the challenges surrounding the gig economy and the treatment of gig economy workers in the UK. As the number of people working in the gig economy continues to grow, it is important for the government to ensure that companies operating in this sector are complying with employment regulations and that the rights of gig economy workers are being protected.