In Italy there is no specific legislation for the so-called riders (workers performing their activity on behalf of delivery companies, usually linked to digital platforms). These workers have become a symbol of precarious work, also because of the frequent road accidents in which – especially when operating in large cities – they are often involved when darting between cars with their bicycles or motorcycles to deliver goods as quickly as possible (as the delivery companies promise to their clients).
As a first attempt to regulate the riders work activity, the Law no.128 of November 2, 2019 takes up the request of the European Union to give a coordinated legal response to the continuous changes in the labor market. The law gives riders different protections depending on whether their activity can be considered a form of occasional self-employment, hetero-organized coordinated and continuous collaboration, or subordinate job relationship. In the case in which the riders, for the concrete modalities of operation, work in a continuous manner according to executive modalities defined by the employer also with reference to times and place of work (the modalities of execution of the service are usually organized through digital platforms) the discipline of the subordinate employment relationship must be applied (unless national collective agreements stipulated by more representative trade-union associations provide for specific disciplines). As regards “self-employed” riders, however, the law also recognizes limited forms of protection, such as the right to obtain the stipulation of a written contract, to receive any useful information on the conditions applicable to the contract for the protection of their safety, the extension of the anti-discriminatory discipline, the prohibition of exclusion from the platform as a consequence of the non-acceptance of the service.
Case-law: Labour Courts have not offered unequivocal indications on the qualification to be attributed to the rider, only applying the principles of subordination or autonomy of the relationship after analyzing the concrete case. If in the case examined the worker turns out to be hetero-directed (also by the digital platforms used for the sorting of deliveries) he will be considered a subordinate worker, otherwise when he preserves his organizational autonomy and works without subordination, he will be considered a self-employed worker. To give some examples, the Court of Palermo (Judgment no. 3570/2020), in the wake of a clear and courageous judgement issued by the Court of Cassation (Judgment no. 1663/2020) setting out general principles on the subject, has attributed to the employment relationship of a rider the nature of a full-time and open-ended subordinate employment relationship, deeming applicable to it the National Collective Labor Contracts. On the opposite side, a more recent judgment of the Court of Florence issued on February 2021 qualifies riders as autonomous workers (“because they can decide whether and when to work, with no need to justify themselves”) and denies these workers the protection offered by art. 28 of the Workers’ Statute which punishes the anti-union conduct of the employer.
As a result of the lack of organic and univocal regulations on the subject, delivery companies usually prefers to frame riders as independent contractors, despite of the risk of having the employment relationship requalified in court. It is worth mentioning the isolated case of the well-known delivery company “Just Eat” which communicated the start of the hiring procedure for all riders employed in Italy as of March 2021. The contract will allow these workers to have access to the protections typical of the employment relationship: hourly compensation, vacations, illness, maternity/paternity leave, indemnity for night work and holidays, insurance coverage, free safety devices provided, mandatory training and social security protections.
The surprising decision of the Milan Public Prosecutor’s Office: a Labour Protection Unit coordinated by the Environment, Health, Labour pool led by the Milan Public Prosecutor’s Office carried out an investigation that started in Milan on May 2020, and extended (with the collaboration of public bodies such as INAIL and INPS) to a survey on the whole national territory, aimed to verify the way the riders activity is performed and the forms of protection guaranteed to them. About a thousand riders working for the main food delivery platforms had been interviewed to acquire useful information. “The conclusion we have come to is that this is a subordinate employment relationship”, the Milan’s Public Prosecutor explained during a press conference a few days ago, “the riders are guided, supervised, evaluated through artificial intelligence by a computer programme.” The outcome is the order that the four most famous delivery companies (Uber, Glovo-Foodinho, JustEat and Deliveroo) received on 24th of February 2021, on the basis of which the companies are expected to hire with stable contracts about 60,000 riders throughout Italy as “coordinated and continuous workers”. It means to change their position from self-employed and occasional workers to parasubordinate. In addition, the four companies have been notified of fines of over 733 million euros for violating work health and safety obligations.
Avv. Laura Palumbo
Milan, 2 March 2021