Concerns over workers’ rights at Deliveroo are giving institutional investors pause ahead of the food delivery group’s initial public offering this year, which is expected to value the company at £8.8 billion ($12 billion).
Two of the U.K.’s largest investors said this week that Deliveroo riders’ working conditions and pay raised red flags ahead of the company’s IPO, which will be the largest listing on the London Stock Exchange in years.
David Cumming, the chief investment officer at Aviva Investments, part of Aviva Group AV, +0.38%, told the BBC that “a lot of employers could make a massive difference to workers’ lives if they guaranteed working hours or a living wage, and how companies behave is becoming more important.”
Deliveroo riders “don’t necessarily get basic rights for minimum wage, sick leave or holidays,” Cummings was quoted as saying to the BBC. “We won’t be investing in Deliveroo for a number of reasons but that is one of them,” Cumming said.
“We wouldn’t be comfortable that the way in which its workforce is employed is sustainable,” Millington told the BBC.
Deliveroo said in a statement to MarketWatch that its “riders are self-employed because this gives them the freedom to choose when and where to work.”
“We are confident in our business model, which has been upheld by UK courts three times, including the High Court twice,” the company added.
In its IPO prospectus, Deliveroo said: “The gig economy is relatively new and growing quickly and, as a result, our model is subject to scrutiny in some
markets. In the United Kingdom and certain other markets to date, the self-employed status of our riders has been confirmed in multiple court rulings.”
The self-employed status means that Deliveroo workers are exempt from minimum-wage, holiday, and sick-pay entitlements.
An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in partnership with the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, recently found that one in three Deliveroo riders made on average less than the national minimum wage for people over 25 of £8.72. Drawing on invoices from more than 300 riders in the past year, the analysis found one cyclist who was paid the equivalent of £2 per hour over 180 hours of work.
As well as being a social issue, analysts and some investors have suggested that concerns over workers rights may also be a potential investment risk if legislation changes. Deliveroo’s razor-thin margins are already facing intense pressure from a price war with rivals, including Uber Eats and Just Eat JET, +0.51%, in the U.K. alone.
“It’s an investment risk if the legislation changes,” said Aviva’s Cumming.
Susannah Streeter, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, noted on Monday that new legislation governing the “gig economy” of contract workers in the 27-member European Union is set to be introduced soon.
“It’s clear the challenge to Deliveroo’s contractor model is likely to continue,” Streeter said. “If it is forced to change the way it classifies its riders in the future, it is likely to puncture its profits prospects, and could even derail the delivery giant.”
Legislative changes have already been introduced in the ride-sharing industry, another business reliant on contract workers, with app Uber UBER, +2.53% reclassifying tens of thousands of U.K. drivers as “workers” earlier this month. Uber drivers aren’t considered employees but will be entitled to the minimum wage, holiday pay, and possibly pensions.
Uber’s move came in response to a U.K. Supreme Court order in February that followed a five-year legal battle started by two London Uber drivers.
Deliveroo warned potential investors of risks from lawsuits and regulatory proceedings, including for rider classification and labor and employment issues, in its IPO prospectus. The company also said its plans to expand internationally could subject the group to risks from new regulatory environments.
Earlier this month, Deliveroo said it would give cash bonuses to riders when the company goes public, with the amount depending on how many orders they have delivered.
Amazon AMZN, -1.32% owns 15.8% of Deliveroo. The online retail giant plans to reduce its holding to 11.8% of Deliveroo following its IPO, according to the prospectus.