‘Rider law’ comes into force, shaking up food delivery companies

Deliveroo have already announced they will cease operations in Spain, while unions accuse some platforms of “cheating”

Glovo bags covered with stickers at a union protest in July 2021 (by Marta Casado Pla)
Glovo bags covered with stickers at a union protest in July 2021 (by Marta Casado Pla) / Cristina Tomàs White

Cristina Tomàs White | Barcelona

August 11, 2021 02:25 PM

The new ‘Rider Law’ comes fully into effect on Thursday, offering more protection for workers who deliver food and other goods through platforms and apps such as Glovo, Uber Eats, and formerly Deliveroo. 

Deliveroo announced last week that they would cease operations in Spain entirely, just before the new laws came into force. 

There are still plenty of unknowns surrounding the future of the sector, with issues still pending such as how the new model of Glovo will fit into the law, and what impact the departure of Deliveroo will have. 

However, unions accuse some of the platforms of cheating to comply with regulations and demand vigilance to prevent irregularities.

What is the new ‘rider law’?

Essentially, the law says that delivery workers shall be considered employees of the company, rather than self-employed workers merely associated with the apps.

The law understands that the platforms organize, direct, and control the employment of the couriers through their apps and algorithms, and as such, the couriers are considered employees. 

The law was passed in May and on Thursday, the three-month moratorium offered by the Spanish government to help the companies in the sector adapt to the new regulations expires. 

By that point, companies such as Glovo, Uber Eats, and Stuart must sign their delivery riders up with social security as employees. 

This way, the couriers will benefit from the rights given to salaried employees, including holidays, unemployment benefits, and breaks. 

The law also establishes that the delivery companies must inform the works council about the algorithms that govern decisions to avoid biases, including courier ratings that can affect promotions or firings. It also allows for the algorithms to be studied to improve the use of artificial intelligence in labour relations.

The Spanish government describes the law as "pioneering" in the face of technological changes that are “unstoppable." 

Uncertainty within the platforms

The platforms have yet to resolve several issues on how they will adapt to the regulations. 

Glovo is one that has not erased all doubts. The company assures that it will offer contracts to around 2,000 couriers who will have schedules, fixed salaries, and specific routes for services that are "viable on a technological and operational scale." 

On the other hand, the company proposes the launch of a new "unpublished" model that they say will follow the criteria established by the Supreme Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union. 

Glovo will also continue to work with freelancers, but says it will have new features that will allow you to work simultaneously with other applications with total flexibility, autonomy, and independence.

Uber Eats has not yet specified which model they will work with, although ‘CincoDías’ reported this week that the platform will outsource its fleets to third parties to comply with the rider law. 

Consulted by ACN, the company has expressed its “commitment” and assures that those who want to operate through the platform as self-employed will not be able to do so. 

Complaints from unions

This week, CCOO, one of the biggest trade unions in Catalonia, has filed two complaints against Glovo to the labour inspectorate, alleging that the company is "cheating" ahead of the introduction of the new law. 

"One of the complaints is to warn that much of Glovo's distributors will continue to work as self-employed even though the law imposes their employment," the union says.

In fact, CCOO believes that Glovo's model is "twisted and ingenious" and that the only purpose it seeks is to "force the interpretation of the law.”