After winning “worst UK delivery company” in 2013, Yodel managed to retain its illustrious title when it won the same prize in January of the following year. 78% of its customers left negative reviews and one report in 2015 surfaced of a courier lobbing a parcel onto a customer’s roof. What negligent employees. But who can blame them? They are being paid £5 per hour, after all – almost four pounds below the national minimum wage (£8.72 as of April, 2020).
I worked for Yodel as a “self-employed courier delivery driver” where I apparently delivered “promises as well as parcels” and was “in control of how much [I earned]” – but was I really? Six days a week, another driver would deliver about thirty parcels to my door “at around two o’clock” – within a single week, this ranged from 1:30 pm to 4:45 pm. A typical day went as follows: having waited at home for a few hours, my 26 parcels arrived at 3 pm. I sorted and loaded them and was out on the road by 3:45pm. 7:15 pm – back home, all parcels delivered. Job done. But was it worth it? At 80p per parcel, I think not. I had earned £20.80 minus the £3.32 for fuel (bearing in mind that fuel prices were at their lowest since 2016 due to the Coronavirus outbreak). I was working in my local area so there was no fuel allowance. £17.48 for three-and-a-half hours’ work. £4.99 per hour.
In my box-filling exercise of an interview, I was told that I could start in two days. Great. But I still did not know what my rate would be. Three ignored texts and five days of working later, I finally saw my contract. It included my rate – 80p per delivery – and a clause which stated that in order to quit I had to give one month written notice and there was no mention of a cooling-off period. After seeing the advertisement, which stated that I could earn “up to £10-£15 per hour,” I had been optimistic about what Yodel might pay me per parcel. Little did I know, this promise was unreasonable and I would be stuck earning around £5 per hour. On one of my most productive days, I still only earned £5.77 per hour. Did Yodel honestly think that I was doing this part-time job out of the kindness of my heart?
To earn £15 an hour on the above route, I would have needed to spend negligible lengths of time sorting/loading and delivering the parcels with no money spent on fuel. Then, after over an hour-and-a-half of driving, I would have earned the promised £15 per hour. Clearly, it was an impossible task.
Compare this with Deliveroo, which also pays its bike riders per delivery (generally between £3 and £5.50 depending on the delivery distance). Although there is less reliability for the Deliveroo rider with this method, one delivery could still be worth nearly 7 of a Yodel courier’s before considering fuel costs. Roughly once a day, I would have to deliver a parcel to Kingsbarns, which was only just within the postcode requirements. It was a 13.6 mile round trip. Fuel costs for driving at 40 miles per gallon with petrol worth £1.10 per litre would be £1.70, over double the 80p rate for that parcel. I was paying Shell to work for Yodel. Whereas a Deliveroo rider can reject orders for a number of reasons, one of which being that the “distance [is] too long,” the Yodel courier has to drive along without complaint lest they be hounded by the site rep. To make matters worse, if the recipient of the parcel was not there, I had to try again the next day and then again the next day – more time and money on petrol with no 80p reward.
Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers had to be considered “workers,” not self-employed drivers, from the time that they log in to the app until they log off, because the job involves waiting for potential customers. Surely a similar ruling for Yodel is long overdue? Even if you ignore the waiting for parcels to arrive, one has to work flat-out for several hours to deliver all the parcels on the day and, even then, the pay is minimal. If Uber drivers had a constant flow of customers, there would be nothing to complain about; they are paid well when they have work. A Yodel courier has a constant stream of work but still does not receive minimum wage.