The struggle for employment rights in digital platforms: an insight on the Spanish “Rider-Law”

15 April 2024 By

Digital platforms have drastically changed the way we buy, move, take care of each other and work, among other things. In the realm of work, they have stimulated the resurgence of patchwork or piecemeal work, renewing a debate on what it means “to work” and how governments can protect workers’ and consumers’ rights. Among the many controversial issues discussed at EU level are the lack of regulation, the creation of new employment or commercial figures, platforms’ self-regulation, or the case of false free-lancers.

In Spain, the nature of employment relations has sparked intense discussions. The case under the spotlight is that of delivery workers, and it has been fuelled by years of demonstrations, court cases, and trade union actions calling to scrutinise the labour relation between riders and platforms like Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Glovo, or Just Eat. Following an increasingly defined line of jurisprudence, labour inspectors and court rulings pushed to consider such relation along the lines of dependent employment. In other words, even though workers act as freelancers and their shifts, payments, incentives and tasks are managed through a platform and its related algorithm, court rulings highlighted a presumption of employment, what in Spanish is referred to as laboralidad.

Consequently, the centre-left Spanish government entered a process of social dialogue to regulate platform work, focusing solely on delivery workers, despite demands from workers’ collectives and trade unions to broaden the regulation to more sectors. Sparked and facilitated by the COVID-19 pandemic context, the negotiations bore fruit. In September 2021, the Spanish parliament passed the so-called “Rider Law”, a pioneering measure that modifies the Spanish Workers’ Statute. The “Rider Law” breaks new ground for platform workers in a double sense: on the one hand, it establishes the workers’ right to receive information on the algorithms and automated decision-making processes that affect their work conditions, hiring, and firing. On the other, it sets up the presumption of employment (laboralidad), meaning that, despite the self-employed status of the workers, the relationship with the employees is to be considered contractual. The effects of the law were fast in coming and diverse: Deliveroo left Spain whereas Just Eat consolidated a fully in-house employment system. Glovo and Uber Eats, on the other hand, still contest the law’s effects and are appealing the fines received from labour inspection. Despite the initial focus on delivery platforms, increasing debates and legislation efforts are urging to expand the notion of “laboralidad” to other types of platforms, starting with service cleaning ones, such as Clintu. EU is currently discussing implementation of the law at the European level. Despite this, there still a lot to do to broaden the scope of the legislation, especially regarding increasing the bargaining power of the largest platforms.