Riders don't count as employees, so aren't entitled to employee rights.
The UK, like many other countries, has a set of workers rights. These are designed to make sure all jobs contribute to what the state considers a minimum standard of living: they have to pay a certain wage, be under a certain number of hours, and come with certain benefits, like sick leave. But these rights don’t apply to everyone who works. In particular, they do not apply to the self-employed. There’s a logic to this. If you’re your own boss, you should be able to control when you work and how much you work for, so in theory you don’t need the same protection from unscrupulous managers as regular employees.
But this idea is being strained by the growth of the ‘gig economy’. The gig economy is when companies (usually tech-y, app-based ones) offer out work in the form of short-term, take-it-or-leave-it contracts. Uber and Deliveroo are well-known examples. Until recently, that meant that the people who worked for them were considered self-employed... and therefore weren't entitled to any benefits.
Many people have argued that this setup has left many Uber drivers and Deliveroo riders unable to afford a decent quality of life, and that gig economy businesses are consequently exploiting their workers. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism report into Deliveroo said one in three riders made less than minimum wage (which is £8.72 p/h) and that some made as little as £2 an hour.
Some people are now looking for ways to push these companies to change their business practices. One such way is for their workers to band together and take action against the company via things like trade unions, strikes and lawsuits. Uber workers have just won a court case in the UK that means they will now be classed as employees, and given employee benefits.
Another tactic that can be used against controversial business is the withdrawal of financial support from customers or investors. A few big investor companies recently announced that because of the way Deliveroo treats its riders they will not buy stocks (part ownership) in the food app when it lists on the stock market. (Listing on the stock market is essentially when a company asks people to invest in it in exchange for some decision making rights or a share of its profits).
Read our explainer on: the minimum wage.