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Global employment briefing: Italy, June 2018

  • Italy
  • Employment law

12-06-2018

Foodora case: first judicial decision in Italy on the status of gig economy workers

The Court of Turin, Labour Section, has rejected a claim filed by a group of former Foodora couriers who sought to be classified as employees of the Company and reinstated in the workplace, pursuant to the rules on illegitimate dismissal. The workers claimed the Company had terminated their engagements because they had participated in strikes and protests aimed at obtaining better working conditions.

This decision, dated 11 April 2018, is the first court ruling in Italy concerning the status of individuals working in the so called “gig economy” - a labour market characterized by the prevalence of short term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs. As such, it has been closely scrutinized by the media and others, given its implications for the development of flexible work models outside the boundaries of traditional employment contracts.

Only employees fall within the scope of the rights and protections granted by Italian Employment law (e.g. rules on illegitimate dismissal, holidays, right to a fair salary). Like the Foodora couriers, however, most gig economy workers are classified by the companies they work for as independent contractors. Therefore, the possible “misclassification” of gig economy workers is of pivotal importance in terms of the applicable legislation and costs to be borne by companies.

In the Foodora case, the Judge ruled that there was no employment relationship between the claimants and the company because the couriers had not proved they were subject to the managerial, organizational and disciplinary power of Foodora. As such, they had to be classed as self-employed contractors. That decision was based on the following circumstances:

  • the riders were not obliged “to work” and the Company was not obliged “to accept their working performance”;
  • their performance was not subject to any control by the Company but to a mere “coordination”, necessary to ensure that the delivery was made according to the timing established by Foodora and the client;
  • the alleged exclusion from the company chat or from work shifts could not be considered as disciplinary sanctions, as the said measures did not deprive the concerned workers of a right.

The decision reiterated the principles already established by the Court of Cassation with respect to the distinction between employees and independent contractors. It also offers a relevant precedent for those companies that wish to engage individuals within the gig economy labour market without resorting to traditional employment contracts, thus allowing work arrangements similar to the ones used by Foodora to be classified within the category of self-employment contracts.

However, this judgment also highlights the need for the legal recognition of better economic protection for those whose working relationships differ from the traditional model and, as such, do not always fit within the strict distinction between employees and independent contractors.

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