Following an 18-month investigation, a department within Belgium's Ministry of Labour initiated a court case against UK-based delivery company Delveroo over the working conditions of its riders on 20 January.
The investigation concluded that Deliveroo, which works with 2,600 riders and 2,000 restaurants in Belgium, is failing to respect Belgian labour law, according to Reuters.
Belgium's Administrative Commission for Employment Regulation (CRT) gave a legal opinion in April 2019 that Deliveroo riders are employees and not self-employed. But this decision was reversed by a Belgium labour court, which said that a "social inspection" of the delivery company was still in progress. In 2017 Deliveroo sacked its employees and started using the services of self-employed riders, paying them per delivery. As self-employed riders they don't get access to healthcare, overtime pay or holidays.
A report from the 2019 European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) found that Deliveroo riders are "predominantly male and young, typically students, and often came from a migrant background". It also found that while unions had an overall positive image among the youth, a very low percentage of Deliveroo riders are unionised. A separate report by the ETUI, also from 2019, noted that a shift by Deliveroo away from employing people via the SMart intermediary resulted in a reduction in workers autonomy and control.
"Riders have the freedom to work when and where they choose. They have no obligation to work, they can reject work freely and they can work with other companies. Riders have complete personal control over their work patterns," said Deliveroo in response to a request for comment.
The company also said that there was "no other way of working that gives people this level of freedom" and warned that declaring riders to be "employees" rather than "self-employed" would eliminate this flexibility, something which Deliveroo says "riders tell us they most value".
"We will keep on calling upon the future Government to provide a framework enabling riders to benefit from the flexibility of the self-employment status but with greater security", the spokesperson added.
The court case is scheduled to begin in October 2021.