Netherlands – Court rules Deliveroo riders are not self-employed

An Amsterdam court ruled this week in two separate cases, that riders working for human cloud food delivery firm Deliveroo are not self-employed and are entitled to the same pay and benefits as an employee.

The case could have a significant impact for gig economy workers in the Netherlands.

In 2017, Deliveroo announced that it would gradually replace all of its employed couriers in the Netherlands with freelancers. Deliveroo argued that this would allow delivery drivers to keep more of their income. However, Deliveroo faced objections from couriers and unions over this arrangement.

This week, judges ruled in two separate lawsuits, filed by the FNV (Netherlands Trade Union Confederation), that the job has not changed sufficiently to merit tearing up the formal contract of employment. FNV argued that riders have little freedom and that the relationship between the employer and the deliverer has not changed. It stated, for example, that delivery riders must sign a contract made entirely by Deliveroo and cannot be negotiated.

“The nature of the work and the legal relationship between the parties has not changed since the beginning of 2018 in such a way that it is no longer possible to perform work on the basis of an employment contract,” the judge stated.

The judge added that “there is admittedly a great deal of freedom with regard to the availability of labour, but it still fits within the character of the employment contract, even if the times to be chosen by the employee are used. The dependence on Deliveroo is still considered by the sub-district Court to be more important than the independence of the deliveryman.”

While a rider can refuse a delivery order, this has consequences for receiving new orders or earning a bonus.

In the second case, the judge ruled that Deliveroo falls under the collective labour agreement for collective transport. That collective agreement must therefore be applied by the company with retroactive effect.

“By using zzp-ers (freelancers), Deliveroo also evades the collective labour agreement for the transport of goods,” the FNV stated.

FNV welcomed the ruling and said it would have an impact for those working on other gig economy platforms such as Uber Eats.

Director Willem Dijkhuizen of FNV Transport and Logistics commented, “This could well mean the bankruptcy of the current revenue model of Deliveroo.”

Last year, a Deliveroo bicycle courier based in the Netherlands launched a lawsuit, backed by the FNV, against the company’s decision to replace all of its employed couriers in the Netherlands with freelancers. The delivery courier lost the case with the judge stating that Deliveroo was not wrong in classifying him as a freelancer.

According to Het Parool, in this weeks’ case, the judge stated that the outcome was different last year because at the time the case only looked at the written employment contract, while this time the court examined what it looked like in practice.