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There is a news story about children working for delivery apps that describes the practice as "illegal". The exact details are not clear, to me at least, so suppose the following hypothetical:

Alice sets up a food delivery gig economy website alice.com, and requires people to be 18 or older to register in the terms and conditions.

Bob, aged 19, registers on the website.

Bob gives the username/password to Charlie, who is 15.

Charlie does work for alice.com, delivering food from Debbie's Restaurant to Eric, and gets paid say in cryptocurrency.

Have Alice, Bob, Charlie, Debbie or Eric broken any laws? Which specifically have been broken by whom?

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    Is Charlie driving a car without a driving license?
    – gnasher729
    Nov 14, 2023 at 16:14
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    @gnasher729 No. These are usually pedal cycle deliveries in the UK.
    – User65535
    Nov 14, 2023 at 16:14

1 Answer 1

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Alice sets up a food delivery gig economy website alice.com, and requires people to be 18 or older to register in the terms and conditions.

Bob, aged 19, registers on the website.

Nothing illegal here.

Bob gives the username/password to Charlie, who is 15.

This could be a breach of contract by Bob. Under typical gig contracts, this behavior could also end the contract. If Bob intended it from the start, it might be a case of fraud.

But if the gig contract allows for subcontracting, then it could or could not be allowable, as long as Bob fulfills his obligations under his contract.

Charlie does work for alice.com,...

Charlie is technically not a party ot the contract of Bob with alice.com. Neither is he entitled to work for alice.com, nor is he entitled to pay by alice.com. Alice.com just can't distinguish Charlie from Bob due to technical limitations... So, is Charlie employed by alice.com? No.

As the case of Aslam-v-Uber showed, Bob would have to be treated as a worker, not as self-employed. As such, Bob can't hire Charlie as a subcontractor, which typically is also an explicit clause in gig economy contracts.

If alice.com actually formed a contract with Charlie, alice.com would be required to uphold child labor laws. Alice.com wants to do that by simply not employing children, period.

If labor laws have been broken depends: in the US, DOL Fact Sheet #34: Hazardous Occupations Order No. 2 explicitly bans anyone under 18 from operating any vehicle and performing "time-sensitive deliveries" - which include hot meals. But such rules are not enacted in the UK. Yet Child employment is heavily regulated:

  • Any delivery past 1900 would have been a breach of law
  • It might be very easy to have racked up too many hours under the child labor employments.

However, alice.com is not Charlie's employer: alice.com only has a contract with Bob and explicitly never wants to employ Charlie - there can't be a meeting of the minds to employ Charlie due to the contract terms. alice.com thus can't be held liable for upholding the child labor laws under the pattern presented.

If anyone is the employer, it's Bob, and Bob has to ensure the labor law is kept. And only if Bob's contract with alice.com allows subcontracting, then Charlie actually is legally working - not for alice.com but for Bob! and as such, Bob has to fully uphold labor laws and his contract with alice.com. As the contract with alice.com bans underage workers, Bob violates his contract with alice.com by substituting Charlie, and Bob breaches the child labor laws whenever Charlie delivers past 1900 or accrues too many hours.

delivering food from Debbie's Restaurant

Debbie's restaurant does not employ Charlie either, they have a contract with alice.com for a delivery service. This contract is to be fulfilled by Bob, according to the terms.

If anything, Debbie's restaurant might violate the contract with alice.com by handing the delivery to Charlie because Charlie is not a worker for alice.com. If Charlie used Bob's credentials to obtain the delivery, this would be fraud by Charlie.

As a registered employer, Debbie's restaurant might be forced to report the apparent child labor of alice.com to the regulatory body. Possibly under their contract with alice.com they might have a duty to report a noticed breach of contract by Bob to alice.com.

to Eric,

Eric has no contract or dealings with Charlie but to accept the food and pay for it according to Eric's contract with Debbie and alice.com. Unless Eric was banned from being around minors, no laws were broken.

and gets paid say in cryptocurrency.

All payments to minor workers 16 to 18 need to be made through PAYE.

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    "Unless Erik was banned from being around minors, no laws were broken" If Eric were banned, who would have broken a law? Despite anything Eric might have done to get so banned, it would still seem unfair if he were punished for a child turning up at his door with food (especially if he'd ordered through a company that employs over 18s only).
    – TripeHound
    Nov 14, 2023 at 15:06
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    @TripeHound that would be an excellent new question. Ask it!
    – Trish
    Nov 14, 2023 at 15:10
  • Thanks you for this answer. If I understand it correctly, if Bob, the person who the BBC where interacting with in the news article, were outside the UK then no one in the UK would be committing a crime.
    – User65535
    Nov 14, 2023 at 15:45
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    IANAL, but I assume that someone under such an order isn't liable if a child comes to their door unexpectedly. I think they're mainly required to keep distance from places where children congregate (schools, playgrounds). It seems nearly impossible to avoid contact with children entirely (how would you go to the grocery store -- parents often bring their children with them?).
    – Barmar
    Nov 14, 2023 at 16:07

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