In August this year The Observer carried a report claiming that Ocado drivers were being paid less than £5 an hour. This is, of course, less than the minimum wage and less than the £14 drivers were told to expect (Wall 2021).
The story bears a little closer inspection. The drivers in the report are part of the retailer’s ‘last mile’ rapid delivery service known as Ocado Zoom. Ocado directly employs the drivers for its core online delivery but has been using third party companies to employ Zoom delivery drivers (Stevens 2021), The report in The Observer looked at the new delivery partner Ryde, brought in by Ocado in June 2021. Since then drivers have reported seeing their earnings fall by between 50% and 70%. Some told reporters that they were working for more than 12 hours a day in an effort to make up earning, and that they were having their loads increased (“They used to split heavy loads but Ryde is forcing us to take whatever Ocado gives us. Sometimes we get five bags’ worth. Most drivers have shoulder and back pain” (Wall 2021). On top of this drivers report being told to smarten their appearance – at their own expense (Wall 2021). After the report customers and MPs took to Twitter to tell Ocado what they found unacceptable (see Plummer 2021)
Ocado issued a statement saying they are concerned about the allegations in the report. Ocado re-iterate Ryde’s aim to pay above the minimum wage and London Living wage, they noted that Ryde refute the report findings and say that an investigation is underway (Ocado 2021).
Another report indicated that Ocado had decided to employ all drivers directly, but this was met with surprise by unions representing deliver drivers. Ocado had said they were consulting with drivers, but the unions said that no drivers had been approached(Stevens2021). In fact the unions had some rather stinging words about Ocado, they said:
“Ocado is moving to switch from the notoriously exploitative gig economy model to an equally unethical outsourcing one based on zero hours contracts. Ocado is misleading the public whilst continuing to exploit these key worker heroes. We are ready to fight until they get the pay, conditions and stability they deserve.” (Stevens 2021)
For the purposes of your assignment you will be thinking not about Ocado seeming to backtrack on working with Ryde, but about the ethics of the third party employer model. Presumably the decision was made because it seemed to represent good value. But didn’t Ocado consider the impact on drivers? Should they not have anticipated where costs would be saved? Much attention has been focussed on the gig economy and although the union comment was that Ocado seemed to be moving from a gig economy model, it was to one based on zero hours contacts. To a worker the difference might not seem all that apparent. This type of working does have supporters, it is often that workers, choose when and how they work. The negative points are also well catalogued with one pre-pandemic report claiming 700,000 workers were paid below the minimum wage (Booth 2018). Another more recent report measured 11 online work platforms (including ride-hailing, food delivery and courier services) against fair pay, conditions, contracts, management and representation), few scored well and some platforms, like Amazon scored no points (Oxford Internet Institute 2021). So for whom does this model seem to work best?
As with all these case studies, the above information provides the context ready for you to think about outlining the ethical issues with the third-party employer model. The reports mentioned are detailed below. You should also do your own research. We follow the references with some guidance on thinking about how your analysis of this issue can be crafted into an assignment answer.
Your assessment into two parts with part 1 being further split into two. Read the requirements below and attempt all three parts:
- You are now required to write a brief report to senior managers at Ocado. You should imagine and play the role of anemployee who has been asked towrite a report for senior managers outlining the ethical issue involved in the case. The reports you have give a good background, now you should present at report outlining the case from the perspective of business ethics.
Why should thecompany be looking at this issue from the perspective of ethics? What is the issue here do you think? Is it a lack of integrity? Transparency? Has the company been dishonest? Has it exploited someone or something? How would you characterise the ethical transgression? (It could be more than one thing).
How might this issueinfluence the public image of the company? What will be the result for the company if/when it is/was found out? (In this case it has been and you can report on the response). But, as with all these cases, we want you to tackle the ethics of the original decision. That is, when Ocado decided that Ryde would be a suitable partner. You should think about what Ocado wanted to get from that partnership.
What alternatives ways are there to think about a business’ role in society? What does the issue seem to indicate that the business is focussed on? Is it for example shareholder value? Or the interests of a range of stakeholders? (Here the temptation is to say that the impact on shareholders for example is that the share price goes down when the issue is report. BUT – we want you to think about what the company had in mind when it chose this path and must have assumed it would not get caught!)
Who/what are the stakeholders impacted in the scenario you are reporting on and how are they impacted on? Again- think about who gained/lost WHEN the decision was made to go with Ryde and not when The Observerreport appeared for example. Though perhaps you can talk about who gained initially and point out that in the longer run it might not have been such a good decision.
Where are there examples of business that act responsibly and ones that do not? You should illustrate this by including research you can find,e.g where is there research that shows good choices benefit companies and bad choices have a negative impact?We are looking for academic research first and foremost, examples of companies’ actions are OK but not without research showing – for example – that people want to work for companies that uphold values.
Finally you should conclude with some recommendations for what the company should do -a tip here is to pay particular note to the video guidance where concluding remarks for this section are covered.This part of your assessment should be written as a report, but should be referenced in the normal academic way using Harvard citations and referencing.
- For this part you should again use the case study – but this time choose TWO ethical theories (using ones we have looked at in class) and demonstrate that you can apply these to the case to show how your chosen theories lead you to a view on the ethics of the case. For example, if you applied utilitarian thinking to the idea of cutting quality to boost profit what would you need to consider and how might the issue look from that perspective? Or, what if you apply Kant’s thinking here? NOTE – you do NOT have to use ‘opposing’ ideas, we are interested most in how you use theory, if, when you apply two theories they seem to give the same answer that is fine, if they seem to give different outcomes that is fine too. This section is written in a more academic style than the report.
Part 2 is NOT related to the case study. This section requires you to discuss what makes an ethical leader and how you would, as an ethical manager, manage your business and/or others to a high ethical standard.
You will need to think about personal ethics, about the conditions that bring about unethical organisations and practices, about organisational values and methods of compliance. This part can be written in a more reflective style, where the first person can be used.
The word limit for this assessment is 3,000 words. This does NOT include any title page or bibliography.
You are allowed 10% of the word count (ie submissions can be up to 3,300 words_, submissions exceeding this will be subject to a penalty.
How the word count is used across the submission is up to you. A suggestion would be
- 1200 words
- 1000 words
Approx. 800 words
The exact proportions will vary and this is part of your challenge to write informatively and concisely across the required tasks.
How will we support you with your assessment?
- Assessment briefing videos
- Briefing material and guides in addition to the assessment brief (Please make sure that you read these)
- Dedicated seminar session on your formative assessment
- The chance to submit a formative outline of your ideas for feedback
- Prompt feedback session on your formative assessment and tutorial session to support the development of your summative assessment.
- Tutorial session to support the completion of your summative assessment in the final week of the semester.
How will your work be assessed?
Your work will be assessed by a subject expert who will use the marking grid provided in this assessment brief. When you access your marked work it is important that you reflect on the feedback so that you can use it to improve future assignments.
You MUST use the Harvard System. The Harvard system is very easy to use once you become familiar with it.
The Business School requires a digital version of all assignment submissions. These must be submitted via Turnitin on the module’s Moodle site. They must be submitted as a Word file (not as a pdf) and must not include scanned in text or text boxes. They must be submitted by 2pm on the given date. For further general details on coursework preparation refer to the online information.
Mitigating circumstances/what to do if you cannot submit a piece of work or attend your presentation
The University Mitigating Circumstances Policy can be found on the University website
Marking and feedback process
Between you handing in your work and then receiving your feedback and marks within 20 days, there are a number of quality assurance processes that we go through to ensure that students receive marks which reflects their work. A brief summary is provided below.
- Step One – The module and marking team meet to agree standards, expectations and how feedback will be provided.
- Step Two – A subject expert will mark your work using the criteria provided in the assessment brief.
- Step Three – A moderation meeting takes place where all members of the teaching and marking team will review the marking of others to confirm whether they agree with the mark and feedback.
- Step Four – Work at Levels 5 and 6 then goes to an external examiner who will review a sample of work to confirm that the marking between different staff is consistent and fair.
Step Five – Your mark and feedback is processed by the Office and made available to you.