In the so-called gig economy, companies avoid giving the impression that anyone actually works for them — and they’ll torture the language to do it. Hence “independent supplier,” which turns up in a leaked document from the British food-delivery company Deliveroo. It revealed an entire alternate vocabulary to be used by and about the company’s couriers, including “onboarding” rather than “hiring” and “working with Deliveroo” rather than “working for Deliveroo.”
That prepositional choice is no accident. It relates to Deliveroo’s embrace of “independent supplier,” an even more slippery version of the US term “independent contractor,” which at least acknowledges a contractual relationship. But “contract” is another of Deliveroo’s unmentionables — it pushes the term “supplier agreement” instead. Employees have legal rights; independent suppliers instead get noncommittal mumbo-jumbo.