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LONDON (Reuters) - British takeaway food delivery firm Deliveroo would give its self-employed riders insurance and sick pay if the government changed the law so it could offer some rather than all the entitlements enjoyed by workers, it said on Friday.
Deliveroo's 15,000 bikers are self-employed so they do not receive rights such as the minimum wage, an arrangement the company argues gives both it and its staff flexibility.
Its riders have become a familiar sight on British streets since the company started trading in 2013 and are a symbol of the burgeoning "gig economy" in which people work simultaneously for different firms without fixed contracts.
Deliveroo's proposals for a change in the law to allow either additional rights for self-employed riders, or to create a new category of employment, were criticised by one of Britain's biggest unions.
"It's the exploitative employment practices of companies like Deliveroo that are out of date - not the law," the GMB union said on Friday.
In Britain, the self-employed have no entitlement to employment rights beyond basic health and safety and anti-discrimination laws, whereas workers also receive entitlements such as annual leave, rest breaks and the minimum wage.
Like taxi app Uber [UBER.UL], Deliveroo has been criticised by unions who say it is exploiting its staff by not offering basic protections and some riders are pursuing legal action to push for workers' rights.
"Current employment law prevents on-demand companies from extending some of the entitlements that are open to 'workers' without calling into question the status of its riders, who are self-employed," the company said on Friday.
"Deliveroo is calling for a change ... that would allow it to offer new benefits to its riders, for example sick pay, insurance or shares for long-standing riders," it said.
The proposals have been submitted to a government review set up in response to public and political concern that more and more Britons do not have a stable income because they have no guarantee of how many hours they will work.
Last year, a tribunal ruled two drivers at Uber should be treated as workers and paid the minimum wage and holiday pay, a decision that could drastically hit the gig economy. Uber has appealed.
Editing by David Clarke