Deliveroo falls foul of French employment law

UK food and grocery delivery company Deliveroo has been fined €375,000 and two of its former managers have been awarded suspended prison sentences for breaching French employment law. The company, which has withdrawn from Spain because of a crackdown on its unfair employment practices recently, plans to appeal.

“Deliveroo will appeal this decision,” a spokesperson for the food delivery company told Reuters. “The judgement goes against previous decisions in civil courts covering the same historic period, which have repeatedly found riders to be self-employed.”

“While this case does not concern today’s operating model, we strongly disagree with this judgement and the basis on which it has been made, and we will appeal.”

At the same time, there are no plans for Deliveroo to stop operations in France. This is one of a number of similar legal challenges it and its competitors are facing worldwide.

Under French employment law, those who are given employee status have rights including unemployment benefits, social security and pension contributions. By declaring its riders ‘self-employed’, so Deliveroo denies them these rights.

French authorities investigated Deliveroo for a period between 2015 and 2017, and found the company had imposed an almost permanent surveillance and control over its riders’ work while they were open for deliveries, judge Sylvie Daunis said.

This included allocating long time slots to be sure the firm had enough riders to fulfil deliveries, even while only paying them per order delivered. Those who refused to be available found that they would be taken off the platform.

Though they were considered freelance, the court found that Deliveroo unilaterally changed the criteria under which pay increases were defined or the minimum time to be online to qualify to be a rider on a given shift.

“This set of elements characterises a situation of almost permanent legal subordination,” Daunis said, referring to a key element that defines the employee status in France.

Deliveroo responded by saying the decision only referred to an early version of its operating model and has no consequences on the way it operates today, which sits closer to French employment law.

“Our model has since evolved in order to be more in line with the expectations of our delivery partners, who want to remain independent … Deliveroo will continue to operate with a model that offers these independent providers a flexible and well-paid business,” the company said.

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