DELIVEROO riders and cleaners have backed a potential legal action against the UK Government over claims that it has failed to protect the wages and jobs of millions in the gig economy.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) says its planned court challenge against the Tory Government is aimed at justice for women, workers from minority ethnic backgrounds and the self-employed.

It believes the current £94.25-a-week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) arrangements discriminate against these groups, claiming these payments are not enough to survive or in some cases not available at all.

The UK Government has offered 80% wage subsidies to businesses to prevent mass redundancies during the Covid-19 shut-down, which has closed coffee shops, pubs, hotels and more.

But this does not extend to those in the gig economy and other self-employed workers, something the union says amounts to discrimination.

Linda Arteaga, a cleaner and member of the IWGB’s Cleaners and Facilities branch, commented: “I am a widowed single mother. As important as it may be to self-isolate, having to live for half a month on £94.25 per week would make my life impossible.

“I would have to choose between buying food for my family and following the Government’s health advice to protect the public.”

Greg Howard, a Deliveroo rider and secretary of the IWGB’s Couriers and Logistics branch, said: “While other workers are being offered some assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic, as a ‘gig economy’ worker I am being refused even the most basic protections.

“While the Government expects workers such as myself to provide essential services during this crisis, if I am sick or if the company I work for has to downsize, I’ll be driven into deeper hardship. The law has to change so that it protects all workers.”

Dr Jason Moyer-Lee, IWGB general secretary, said: “Many low-paid and precarious workers are on the front lines of this crisis, distributing food, delivering medical samples, cleaning buildings and looking after children in need, yet they have the least protection.

“Many who become sick or need to self-isolate will receive little or no sick pay. Others who are laid off will not receive wage subsidies from the Government because they are not employees.

“No-one wants to be litigating right now, but we also cannot stand by while our members are exposed to unnecessary risk or driven into destitution.”

On Sunday Robert Jenrick MP, the UK's Communities Secretary, said Westminster is considering ways to provide wage support to the self-employed – a group which makes up 15% of teh UK workforce.

He stated that using the tax system to deliver wages to this group is “logistically, operationally difficult” but, appearing on Sky News, went on: “There may be more things we need to do, the chancellor is keeping it under review and considering what we may be able to do for the self-employed.”