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Just Eat has cut 1,700 courier jobs and 170 head office staff as the food delivery firm looks to return to a gig economy model.

A drop in demand for takeaway delivery has been a big hit to the London-listed firm, which saw customer numbers drop by 9% last year.

In an effort to cut costs, Just Eat is looking to restructure its employee model. It currently employs many of its couriers as workers, which means they are entitled to a fixed hourly pay rate, sick pay, and other benefits.

Many of its delivery staff are, however, classified as independent contractors, who are not legally required to be given the same benefits.

A spokesperson for Just Eat said: “Just Eat UK is reorganising and simplifying its delivery operation as part of the ongoing goal of improving efficiency.

“We have proposed to transition away from the worker model for couriers, which is a small part of our overall delivery operations – running in certain parts of six UK cities.”

The company has given its laid-off delivery staff a six-week paid notice period.

The move comes in contrast to the previously stated views of the Just Eat Takeaway boss Jitse Groen, who has spoken as a strong advocate for the worker model that grants drivers and riders staff protections.

Groen previously wrote in the Financial Times that “the gig economy comes at the expense of society and workers themselves”.

The job cuts follow Just Eat rival Deliveroo’s layoffs, in which 350 employees lost their positions.