Paris court convicts platform for systematic concealment of employee status

VS – 05/2022

The Tribunal Judiciaire de Paris on April 19 fined Deliveroo EUR 375,000.00 for hiring its couriers as self-employed instead of salaried employees. Deliveroo is considering filing an appeal.

Determination of the employment status

For years, the question of the employment status of platform workers has been at the centre of legal disputes in EU Member States. In this context, the platforms are suspected of basing their economic model on bogus self-employment in order to achieve cost advantages, for example by eliminating social security contributions, vacation and sick pay, and contributions to accident insurance. This is often countered by the fact that platform workers voluntarily seek the opportunities of self-employment for more flexible employment arrangements, thus enjoying greater freedom in their entrepreneurial activities.

Employment relationships at Deliveroo for the period from April 2015 to December 2017 have now been negotiated in Paris. According to the court, Deliveroo deliberately exploited and abused the labour regulations in order to systematically circumvent the employment relationship of its couriers.

The court slapped the maximum fine of EUR 375,000.00 on the platform. In addition, the two former top managers of the platform were given a twelve-month suspended prison sentence. Furthermore, both were fined EUR 30,000.00 and banned from running any business for five years.

Divergent case law – an issue that concerns whole of Europe

As clear as the judge's decision in France may have been, the case law in Europe is very different. For example, in a similar case on 8 December 2021, the Labour Court in Brussels ruled that Deliveroo couriers should not be considered employees but self-employed.

Also due to contradictory decisions on the employment status of platform workers, the European Commission presented a proposal for a directive on platform employment on 9 December 2021, which lays down regulations for determining the employment status. One of the aims of the proposed directive is to strengthen the rights of platform workers. The German Social Insurance has already commented on this in the consultation procedure (the link can be found here).