Spain passes landmark gig economy law

A Glovo rider in Barcelona
davide bonaldo / Alamy Stock Photo

Food delivery and courier companies in Spain have three months to employ drivers as staff under a landmark new law.

The law, given royal decree last week, requires employers in this sector to hire any workers currently freelancing for them by mid-August, and will affect around 30,000 couriers.

Spain is the first country in the EU to legislate on employment status in this way. The law will technically give workers employee status and corresponding rights, but will also give unions the right to access algorithms used by the employers to manage their workforce.

This will enable the unions to ensure workers are not underpaid if demand for services falls, as well as monitor working hours and conditions.

Last year, the Spanish supreme court ruled that workers for delivery app Glovo were employees, allowing them to gain formal contracts and benefits.

Some companies have tried to circumvent the law by hiring workers through temporary employment agencies or hiring some workers as employees and covering peak times with workers from transport companies.

Some couriers have protested against the introduction of the law, claiming that remaining self-employed benefits them because they can work for more than one company and be flexible about their schedule.

Labour minister Yolanda Diaz said the new regulations would put Spain “at the forefront of a technological change that cannot leave labour rights behind”.

“Workers have the right to know what motivates business decisions,” she added. “Algorithms are going to be put at the service of the majority.”

APS, the trade body representing companies including Deliveroo, Glovo and Uber Eats, condemned the move. In a statement, it said: “While Spain claims to be a start-up nation, this is the first law in Europe that forces a technological company to disclose its algorithms.”

Uber said the regulations would restrict drivers’ ability to work and earn flexibly, and also impact Spain’s restaurant industry as it tried to recover from lost business during the pandemic.

The European Commission began a six-week consultation on gig economy workers’ rights in February, but is yet to report on its findings.

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