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The employment model of the collaborative economy is once again under scrutiny after Labor Court No. 6 of Valencia ruled on June 1, 2018, in a groundbreaking ruling, that the relationship between the Deliveroo digital platform and one of its riders is not a commercial relationship as a self-employed worker, but an employment relationship as a salaried worker.

Although the ruling could be subject to further analysis, and some of its premises questioned, and despite the fact that an appeal could be filed against it, the existence of this legal ruling may force Deliveroo to rethink its business model.

Regarding the content of the ruling, in the judge’s opinion, the following marks of dependence and employment specific to an employment relationship as an employed worker are present in this case:

  • The company owns the virtual platform, and the riders, who do not have a business organization, are required to download an application and join a telegram group.
  • The company geolocates the workers at all times, while keeping a time control of each delivery.
  • The company gives instructions and sets the times and performance standards that the rider must follow when carrying out the delivery. Also, it is the platform that decides, within the slots that the worker previously chooses, what their time schedule is.
  • The company sets the prices for the services the workers carry out.
  • The riders, within their time schedule, lack the freedom to reject orders. In fact, the case has arisen due to the termination derived from the worker’s repeated rejections and lack of availability to make deliveries.
  • It is the company that establishes the terms and conditions of the member restaurants and the customers to whom they provide their services, and the worker does not know which restaurants these are or the identity of the customers requesting the service.
  • Lastly, the riders are used as the Deliveroo brand, as they are “the image of the company seen by the customer.

 

Based on these reasons, the judge considers the existence of an employment relationship between the parties to be proven and, consequently, declares the termination as an unfair dismissal, obligating the digital platform to reinstate the worker—as a salaried worker—or pay the worker the corresponding compensation.

The ruling, a groundbreaking one in Spain when analyzing the employment model of home deliveries through the collaboration of self-employed workers, is in line with the position of the Labor and Social Security Inspectorate that, in provinces such as Madrid and Valencia, had already sanctioned Deliveroo due to considering the riders to be false self-employed workers.

Such a ruling could be an opportunity for the legislator to seek, as has taken place in other countries, intermediate figures that workers of digital platforms could be framed within. For example, French labor legislation confers certain labor rights to self-employed professionals who work with digital platforms, classifying them as “independent workers.”

In the United Kingdom, however, although the Central Arbitration Committee (competent body for ruling on union disagreements) determined that Deliveroo riders are self-employed workers, the courts have classified workers of digital platforms, such as Uber, as workers (not employees), a figure between the employed worker and the self-employed worker, who are conferred certain labor rights for the provision (including irregular provision) of their services.

A more innovative solution is the one proposed in Denmark, where the main union of the country signed what is considered the first collective agreement of the gig economy, which aims to find a balance between the flexibility of such platforms and the labor rights of the member workers.

However, pending legislative initiatives in this regard, for now the changes will come hand in hand with the decisions that, in this respect, our courts adopt. We will be especially attentive to the resolution of Labor Court No. 21 of Barcelona, which on May 23 judged the relationship between Deliveroo and 16 former delivery people.

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marta.villaverde@cuatrecasas.com

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