Deliveroo rider Subway

Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats are to introduce “enhanced security checks” after pressure from the Home Office to do more to stop their apps “being abused by illegal workers”.

The government had been pushing the aggregator apps to ensure substitute riders – which can be appointed by couriers to use their account and make deliveries – had the legal right to work in the UK.

The delivery companies make initial checks on those who want to work for them, verifying their age and right to work. But once approved, the rider can subcontract their accounts to unchecked substitutes.

“Illegal working puts their customers at risk, drives down wages and defrauds the taxpayer. It is vital that we shut down any loophole that allows it to happen,” said Michael Tomlinson, minister for countering illegal migration. “We’re committed to cracking down on unchecked account sharing.”

Deliveroo was the first to roll out a new substitute registration feature, including right to work checks, earlier this month. Just Eat and Uber Eats will soon follow suit.

“We take our responsibilities extremely seriously and are committed to strengthening our controls to prevent misuse of our platform,” said Deliveroo. “We are the first major platform to roll out direct right to work checks, a registration process and identity verification technology to ensure that only substitutes with right to work can continue riding on our platform.” 

Investigations by the BBC and Independent uncovered a booming black market, where rider accounts are traded and used by illegal workers and children. The Independent said the market – based mainly on social media and in WhatsApp groups – was operating as a “back door for people who would fail a criminal background check or are in the country illegally”.

Late last year, immigration minister Robert Jenrick said that unchecked account sharing placed “the public at risk, enables – and therefore encourages – illegal migration, and leads to the exploitation of workers”.

“When someone orders a takeaway to their home, they deserve to know that the person arriving at their door has been properly vetted and is who they’re expecting,” he added.

Ministers visited Deliveroo’s London headquarters last week to convince them to commit to additional checks.

“I support proactive businesses like Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats, who are working to ensure those who work with them are doing so legally, in turn protecting consumers and helping to grow the economy,” said Kevin Hollinrake, minister for business and trade.

“I am proud of the UK’s flexible and dynamic labour market and the gig economy plays an important role in offering flexible opportunities for those who may not be able to work in more conventional ways,” he added.