Empowering the Freelance Economy

Unvetted gig workers gaining access to our homes

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Investigations from New York and London have revealed that illegal workers are posing a risk to the gig economy’s reputation. While documented and skilled refugees are otherwise contributing to the tax system, our workforce and economy

An Uber Eats delivery worker in New York City is warning that unvetted drivers, particularly newly arrived migrants, pose a major security risk to New Yorkers by borrowing or renting genuine accounts which give them access to customers’ homes.

John Gray, who has been delivering for Uber Eats in New York for five years, told the New York Post that the company’s lack of identity verification and background checks for its drivers is “a disaster waiting to happen.”

Gray said that he has seen firsthand how easy it is for people to borrow or rent Uber Eats accounts. He said that he has even seen people using other people’s accounts to deliver food to customers’ homes. In apartment buildings and walk-ups, this can be especially a security risk.

“This is a huge security risk,” Gray said in the report. “These people have access to our homes and our families. We need to make sure that Uber Eats is doing everything it can to vet its drivers before they are allowed to deliver food.”

Undocumented migrants in the UK are earning up to £1,500 a month working illegally for food delivery firms like Deliveroo, despite government efforts to crack down on the practice.

An investigation by The Mail on Sunday has revealed that couriers working for Deliveroo, Just Eat, and Uber Eats are subcontracting out their deliveries to undocumented migrants. These migrants are prohibited from working in the UK, but they are able to do so because the tech giants behind the UK’s £13 billion food delivery business allow low-paid “substitute” riders to work for them without proper vetting.

This practice is arguably undermining efforts by the UK government to tackle illegal immigration. The government has called for an end to the use of undocumented workers in the food delivery industry, but the tech giants have so far failed to take action, according to the report.

Uber Eats Delivery Worker Calls for More Frequent Checks

Back in New York, Gray is calling on Uber Eats to implement more frequent identity verification checks for its drivers. He said that the company could use facial recognition technology to verify drivers’ identities every time they log in to the app.

“This would be a simple change that would make a big difference in security,” Gray said.

Impact on the Freelance Economy

The use of unvetted drivers by Uber Eats and other delivery services is a growing problem in the freelance economy. As more and more people turn to freelance work, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to take steps to ensure that their workers are who they say they are.

The use of unvetted drivers can have several negative consequences. It can put customers at risk, and it can also damage the reputation of the freelance economy. Companies that use unvetted drivers are also at risk of legal liability if something goes wrong.

Recommendations

To address the problem of unvetted drivers, companies could implement a number of measures, including:

  • Requiring all drivers to undergo a background check
  • Verifying drivers’ identities using facial recognition technology
  • Implementing more frequent identity verification checks

Companies should also be aware of the signs that a driver may be unvetted. These signs may include:

  • The driver is using someone else’s name or account
  • The driver is unable to provide valid identification
  • The driver is evasive when asked about their background

If a company suspects that a driver is unvetted, legal drivers suggest the company should take immediate action to investigate and, if necessary, terminate the driver’s account.

What needs to be differentiated is documented refugees from those that are undocumented, unvetted and illegal. In November the government reported what it sees as a successful employment programme for refugees here in the UK as we report below.

UK Government Pilot Scheme Helps Skilled Refugees Find Employment, Boost Economy

Skilled refugees are contributing nearly £1 million each year in income tax and national insurance through the government’s pilot schemes to help those fleeing their homes find employment. The Displaced Talent Mobility Pilot has been extended for a further year, with more businesses being encouraged to hire skilled refugees while helping people rebuild their lives in the UK.

Key Points:

  • The Displaced Talent Mobility Pilot aims to match up to 200 people with UK employment opportunities.
  • Syrian and Afghan nationals are the most common beneficiaries of the scheme so far.
  • The pilot is now being expanded to include refugees and displaced people of any nationality or location.

Minister for Immigration, Robert Jenrick said the Displaced Talent Mobility pilot is a” safe and legal route” that ensures refugees can “rebuild their lives in the UK, contribute to society and integrate into local communities swiftly.”

Malek, a Syrian refugee who was resettled in the UK under the Displaced Talent Mobility pilot: “Where I was, you don’t feel stability, you feel afraid. Here in the UK, from the first day, you feel safe.”

Malek continued: “If your business has a gap, the Displaced Talent Mobility Pilot is a great scheme. People who have moved to the country are committed and it is a good thing to have people from other places. This is because they have different experiences from the other work fields and because they have come from challenging places, they will do their best to prove themselves and be successful in their jobs and new lives.”

The first Displaced Talent candidate was a Syrian national who arrived in the UK in 2021 is now working as a specialist construction recruiter in the West Midlands.

In 2023, two Afghan women started roles as paralegals in Sheffield, and a Project Engineer began working for an engineering company in Aberdeen. Other individuals have started roles in the engineering, construction, and creative industries.

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