Delivery riders could be classed as employees under new EU rules

New law moves to protect gig economy workers and introduces fines for large firms profiting from ‘environmental destruction’

Food delivery riders and drivers working for apps such as Deliveroo or Just Eat may have to be classed as direct employees rather than contractors, under a European Union law passed this week.

The European Parliament approved new rules to better regulate working conditions for “platform” workers in the gig economy, during the final voting session of its five-year term in Strasbourg. The measures would cover people working as ride-share drivers using Uber, or food delivery riders working for platforms such as Deliveroo or Just Eat.

The new EU law would create a presumption that these workers are direct employees of the company behind the apps, as opposed to being classed as self-employed as most are currently. It could lead to significant changes for workers, such as entitling them to sick pay and other benefits, if they are no longer deemed to be self-employed.

However, it will be up to national governments to define exactly how far the measures go in individual countries, when introducing legislation within the next two years. The measures also regulate how companies can use data gleaned from the apps, meaning riders would not be able to be fired as a result of a decision made by an algorithm.


Ciarán Cuffe, Green MEP for Dublin, said he had hoped the law would have gone further and given “a definitive answer” on whether workers were employees or contractors. Mr Cuffe said this had proved “impossible” due to heavy opposition from countries such as France and Germany. Elisabetta Gualmini, a Socialists and Democrats MEP from Italy involved in drafting the new EU law, said it would address existing “bogus self-employment”, where workers were wrongly classed as contractors, rather than staff.

Large companies will be required to root out any instances of human rights or environmental abuses in their supply chains, under a separate “due diligence” law passed by the parliament.

A provisional agreement on the proposed law had been watered down in recent months, following opposition from some countries at European Council level. While earlier versions proposed the new requirements apply to EU companies of 500 employees or more, that threshold was raised to cover companies with at least 1,000 staff in the final draft.

Companies will have between three and five years to make sure they comply with the new rules, with shorter lead-in times for larger companies. Firms that are found to have fallen foul of the obligations could face fines amounting to 5 per cent of their global turnover under the changes.

The diluted version of the directive was backed by 374 MEPs on Wednesday, with 235 voting against it, and 19 abstaining. Speaking afterwards, Lara Wolters, a Dutch Labour party MEP, said she was confident there would not be any last-minute “back-stabbing” of the parliament by the council, who must now rubber stamp the new measures.

Ms Wolters said the reforms would tackle cases where large EU companies profited from products that resulted in deforestation, or were made with child labour or by people working in seriously unsafe conditions. “We are doing our bit to make sure there’s no more products on the market that come at the cost of human lives and environmental destruction,” she said.

The parliament also voted to back proposals rolling back a number of regulations placed on farmers availing of subsidies paid under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), in response to high-profile farmer protests in recent months.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times