DELIVEROO has been one of the real success stories of the pandemic, thriving as people relied more than ever on ordering takeaways during prolonged periods of lockdown.

The delivery company is aiming for a valuation of up to £8.8 billion when it starts selling its shares on the public exchange in London, which could net its chief executive as much as £500 million.

However, in collaboration with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), the Chronicle has found that some of the riders upon whose backs the business was built have been receiving less than the minimum wage per shift.

READ MORE: Reading home is the most popular house in the UK

Almost one in three Deliveroo riders in Reading have been paid below the minimum wage for making food deliveries, according to data analysed by the Bureau and The Reading Chronicle.

Reading Chronicle:

Among their allegations were problems with decent rates of pay which they could only get by working peak weekend hours.

A total of 15 riders from Reading submitted their invoices and out of 482 sessions, 66 per cent (317) were earning below £10 per hour.

More than half (55%) of sessions were below the minimum wage.

Deliveroo rejects these claims and says self-employed riders are paid more than £10 per hour on average with riders given the freedom to choose which deliveries to accept and which to reject. It claims that riders are free to refuse orders while logged on to its app, or to accept orders from other companies.

One worker from Reading said he struggled to make enough money because he was only able to make four deliveries in the space of three and a half hours.

The data shows a lack of transparency about how the Deliveroo app algorithm works in allocating riders with jobs, which meant riders felt pressured into accepting orders in areas where they worried about taking jobs from restaurants where there would be long waiting times, meaning their earning power was curbed.

ALSO READ: Banksy Reading typewriter has unusual word seen in artwork

Steven Geary, 43, from Reading, gave the example of an order on New Year’s Eve – one of the busiest nights of the year for food delivery riders – in 2019.

The food from his local Nandos took more than an hour to be prepared. An invoice he shared with the Bureau and Chronicle shows that in the space of three and a half hours that night he was only able to make four deliveries, earning an average of £7.27 per hour over the session.

He said: "There are lots of people exactly like me, lots of fellow couriers, some of them have family, some of them don’t, and we are just fighting to survive. It’s a dangerous environment”.

In that same year in 2019, Deliveroo said it was committed to paying riders more than £10 an hour on average and said riders would earn above £15 in 'peak hours'.

Deliveroo uses a computer algorithm called Frank to manage which rider is offered which deliveries – although it does not determine fees. Frank, named after a character in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, uses vast amounts of data to predict order timings based on factors including the time of day, the number of couriers logged into Deliveroo’s app and the distance between the customer and the restaurant.

Alex Marshall, Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) president, said the model was like “a venus flytrap”, leading to an oversupply of workers struggling to earn enough outside of peak hours. “What we have clearly exposed here is just the tip of the iceberg,” he added.

“These are the people who have fallen below the bare minimum requirements we expect for workers. This is before you factor in the cost of doing the job, the lack of rights, the lack of pension and the lack of holiday pay.

He claimed that with unprecedented job losses in the last year, companies like Deliveroo were “preying on people’s desperation”.

A spokesperson for the company said "these unverifiable, misleading claims from a fringe organisation who claim, at most, to have spoken with two per cent of Deliveroo riders should not be taken seriously."

They added: “50,000 riders choose to work with Deliveroo, and thousands more people apply to work with us every week. Our way of working is designed around what riders tell us matters to them most – flexibility.

"Riders do not work in hourly patterns, and time logged on does not mean they are working: riders are free to reject work without penalty at any time and can work for other companies while logged in to our app. Almost half of orders are rejected at least once.”

"Riders in the UK are paid for each delivery they choose to complete and earn £13 per hour on average at our busiest times. We communicate with thousands of riders every week and satisfaction is currently at an all-time high.”

Are you a gig worker and want to share your story about pay? You can stay anonymous and get in touch by emailing: