Riders who work for Deliveroo are employees, not freelancers, the Supreme Court said reigned on Friday, in a potentially precedent-setting case for the country platform economy.
The case was brought by trade union FNV, which has been fighting a legal battle with Deliveroo since 2018. The dispute started when the British company announced it was terminating employment contracts for its delivery drivers, instead offering them the option of continuing as a courier service. freelancers. FNV immediately filed a lawsuit, arguing that the drivers deserved the legal protection afforded to permanent employees.
FNV deputy chairman Zakaria Boufangacha said that, as freelancers, Deliveroo employees have virtually no say in wage rates and working conditions. “As a result, they have to pay for and arrange their own insurance, days off and pensions. And they don’t, because the wages are way too low,” he said.
In 2019 the Court of Amsterdam supported the position of the union, ruling that delivery drivers were pseudo-freelancers because one was established relationship of authority between Deliveroo and its drivers. The company, judges reasoned, could control what the employees did, employees weren’t completely free to work when they wanted, and they had no say in drafting their contracts the way freelancers would. The Supreme Court has now confirmed those rulings and thus put an end to the years-long dispute.
Although Deliveroo left Dutch market last year, the ruling could have major consequences for companies that operate in a similar way in the Netherlands, regardless of their sector, FNV union leader Anja Dijkman predicts.
“This Supreme Court ruling affects hundreds of thousands of self-employed people,” she says said. Dijkman says he has been concerned for years about the position of self-employed people in the platform economy (those who work for online platforms such as Amazon, Uber and Airbnb).
The ruling, she said, will make it more difficult for companies like Deliveroo to try and claim that their staff are actually freelancers just because it’s a cheaper way to run a business. “It becomes case law that others can fall back on,” she added.
There are currently about 1.2 million self-employed persons in the Netherlands and that number is growing daily. The government has been working for years on new rules to clearly distinguish an employee from a self-employed person, but so far there has been little concrete progress. Trade unions and politicians are Worried about this legal gry area, and they say a clear definition is needed.
Margreet Drijvers, director of the interest group Platform Independent Entrepreneurs (PZO), believes that Deliveroo’s judgment does not provide this clarity. “The Supreme Court has basically left everything as it was – no new criteria have been introduced to define exactly what is or is not a self-employed person,” she said.
Not all delivery drivers are happy with the verdict either. “I lost my job because of FNV,” says former Deliveroo delivery driver Director Eddie. As a self-employed person, he can choose which rides he drives and how many hours he makes, he said. Now he works for Uber Eats.
In potentially good news for drivers like Eddy, labor lawyer Joyce Snijder also believes the Deliveroo ruling will have little effect influence about similar cases – such as those of taxi service Uber and temp agency Temper – that are currently pending before the court.
Whether the case sets a precedent or not, one thing is certain: as more and more workers enter the platform economy, the need for legal clarity for the self-employed becomes increasingly urgent.