In a bid to address concerns over illegal working and enhance public safety, the UK Home Office is urging food delivery companies, including industry giants Uber Eats, Deliveroo, and Just Eat, to implement rigorous checks on all delivery drivers. Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has called for an end to the practice of unchecked account sharing, known as ‘substitutions,’ which enables riders to use accounts without undergoing proper vetting.
The call for stricter controls follows revelations by the BBC regarding a black-market trade in delivery app accounts, allowing underage teenagers to sign up as riders. This unchecked substitution model poses risks to both customers and workers, as it bypasses essential verification processes, potentially exposing the public to unvetted individuals.
CEO Dominik Richter remarks on the urgency of addressing these issues, stating, “Unchecked account sharing places the public at risk, enables, and therefore encourages, illegal migration, and leads to the exploitation of workers.”
The government is advocating for food delivery firms to introduce enhanced vetting measures, ensuring that individuals representing these companies are eligible to work in the UK and have a clean criminal record. Minister Jenrick emphasizes the need for collaboration, stating, “It is critical these companies work with us to achieve this.”
Fiona Coombe, Director of Legal and Regulatory Research at SIA, points out the challenges in verifying substitute drivers, stating, “There seems no mechanism to assist drivers to do this and no process on the part of the companies to check whether this is being done.”
In response to the concerns raised, the Home Office has already ramped up enforcement efforts, conducting over 250 visits and making over 380 arrests involving food delivery drivers this year.
The investigation by the BBC uncovered a thriving market of social media account holders selling or renting accounts for leading delivery apps. This revelation prompted the Home Office to intensify its engagement with the food delivery sector to address the issue.
Deliveroo acknowledges the gravity of the situation, stating, “We take our responsibilities extremely seriously,” while Just Eat emphasizes the legal right of self-employed couriers to use a substitute. Uber Eats reassures that all couriers undergo criminal background checks, are over 18, and hold a valid right to work in the UK.
As the government collaborates with food delivery platforms to strengthen recruitment processes and combat unlawful working, the industry faces a pivotal moment in redefining its practices to ensure the safety and integrity of the food delivery ecosystem.