Piero Valmassoi – Riders’ accidents in Belgium: more exposed, less covered

An in-depth analysis of food delivery accidents and accident insurance in Belgium.

Piero Valmassoi is a journalist and a platform transport policy expert in Brussels, Belgium.

This article was originally published by Econospheres in French. It has been produced as part of a cross-border journalism series on food delivery accidents in Europe with the support of journalismfund.eu.

Picture by Conceptphoto.info

Food delivery riders working for platforms such as UberEats, Deliveroo, and (Just Eat TakeAway) have become in the last ten years a common sight in our cities. We see them at every hour of the day and under any weather condition, gathering outside of restaurants and riding through cities on bicycle and scooters, with the iconic cubic isothermal bags on their shoulders. As clients, most of us have become used to having food delivered at our doorstep through an application when we do not feel like cooking at home. Yet, we still know little about the risks that couriers face every day while cycling across cities to get warm dishes to us.

On 3 February 2023, an Afghan rider working for UberEats, Sultan Zadran, died after a collision with a FlixBus close to Brussels North Station. It was the first fatal accident of a rider in Brussels since digital platforms entered the Belgian market.

The objective of this piece is to investigate the exposure of food delivery couriers to road accidents and to understand the reasons why this job is so dangerous. 

To better understand the perfect storm of risk factors that characterize the daily routine of a delivery courier, I interviewed a series of key actors in the food delivery sector: riders who have experienced road accidents, trade unionists, activists, representatives of food delivery platforms, road safety experts, and representatives of the Belgian government.

I investigated how the legal statuses that frame the employment model of riders influence their working conditions and impact on their occupational health and safety. Additionally, I collected information on the conditions and the functioning of the insurance policies adopted by delivery platforms who hire riders as independent contractors. Finally, I point out how the Belgian and the EU legal framework on platform workers fail in ensuring riders have the possibility of working in safe conditions. 

Background: The evolution of riders’ legal status

The legal status of food delivery riders in Belgium has evolved since the first platforms started to operate in the country, about ten years ago. The first platforms active in Belgium, Take Eat Easy (founded in 2012 and bankrupted in 2016) and Deliveroo (entered in the Belgian market in 2015) hired riders with a proper – yet precarious – employment contract, thanks to a convention signed with the cooperative SMart (Société Mutuelle pour Artistes).

The contract was characterized by a series of features of employment status: hourly payment, shifts of at least 3 hours, insurance coverage (assurance-loi) for accidents provided by SMart, paid leave, thirteen-month salary, access to unemployment benefits, compensation for telephone expenses and 50% of bike reparation, and provision of equipment. Some of the advantages of an employment contract were not provided, for example: the volume of work to be performed by the rider was not agreed in advance, no social dialogue with the platform and no notice of contract termination were foreseen.

In January 2018, Deliveroo put a unilateral end to this agreement, announcing that it would instead adopt the Peer-to-peer (P2P), or collaborative economy, regime. This represented a major shift in legal status, from employed workers to independent contractors, which was reflected in a real deterioration of working conditions. 

The P2P regime was introduced by the De Croo Law in 2016 and intended to regulate occasional services provided between individuals. The performances under this status are not considered as work, for this reason labour law does not apply. The annual revenue originating from these performances has a ceiling that in 2023 is equal to 7170€ gross (taxed 10.7%), no tax declaration is required, and no social contribution is generated. For this reason, people providing services under this status are not considered workers, and do not enjoy any social protection or benefits. When it comes to the application of this regime to platform work, its most important feature is that riders are not paid by the hour, but they are remunerated through a piecework system, which implies a fixed tariff per delivery.

The introduction of this regime was met with great resistance by organisations that represented riders> In January 2018, riders mobilized by the Brussels Couriers’ Collective occupied the HQ of Deliveroo in Brussels and organized demonstrations that led several restaurants to shut down the application in the Ixelles neighbourhood in January 2018. 

Jean Bernard Robillard, who at that time was the spokesperson of the Brussels Couriers’ Collective, tells me that the reason for this shift in employment model was not an economic one: “Platforms do not manage to be profitable, regardless of the legal status they adopt for their workers. I listened to the then head of Deliveroo Belgium, Mathieu De Lophem, saying that to Deliveroo it would not cost more to employ riders, instead of keeping us self-employed. The objective of this shift is not economic, but political; it is about deteriorating labour law.”

Despite the resistance, the P2P status remains the status under which 85% of Deliveroo and UberEats riders work in Brussels (according to numbers provided to me by United Freelancers). The other riders working for these two platforms are independent with VAT. They represent only a small percentage because having a VAT is, according to Martin Willems (United Freelancers), “hardly viable for riders, as to make ends meet as independent you need to earn at least 2000€ per month”. Independent workers with VAT pay social contributions and are obliged to have their own insurance policy, as well as to make their own tax declaration. 

The third main platform in the Belgian market, Just Eat TakeAway, hires riders with proper employment contracts, which carries with it a series of advantages that riders working for UberEats and Deliveroo do not enjoy. These include hourly payment, social security coverage, equipment provided by the employer, paid sick leave, paid vacation and thirteen-month salary. The market share and workforce of this platform is minor compared to that of UberEats and Deliveroo.

In the last years, and through the COVID crisis, the struggle of unions and collectives against the self-employment model of UberEats and Deliveroo has continued both in courts and in the streets. United Freelancers and the Brussels Couriers’ Collective supported 114 riders in a legal action taken by the Belgian Labour Inspectorate against Deliveroo on the basis of an investigation on the working conditions of riders in 2018, which aimed at recognising the subordination link between the platform and its workers. A Brussels Labour Court judgement in December 2021 found that the P2P status cannot be used by Deliveroo, as its riders are carrying out “a professional activity”. For the delivery riders involved in the trial, the judge then reclassified their professional activity as independent partners and not employees, as the public prosecutor, unions, and riders had argued.

The platforms have continued using the P2P regime to hire riders (allowed by Federal Public Service Finance and the Ministry of Finance), but the appeal judgement on the definitive cancellation of the P2P status, which is expected by January 2024, will impact the legal status of riders in the future. Asked by me about the possible end of the P2P regime, Nicolas Gillard, spokesperson of the Cabinet Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne said that “everybody will have to take conclusions” on the basis of the court’s judgement. 

In the meantime, unions and collectives on the ground carried on with their grassroots actions to organise a workforce that is atomised and subject to a high turnover. In November 2022, a coalition composed by Jeunes FGTB, CSC Bruxelles, Mouvement Ouvrier Chretien (MOC), United Freelancers, and the Brussels’ Couriers Collective opened the Maison des Livreurs (House of Riders), a space to provide a warm place for food delivery couriers to rest, socialise, organise, and access legal support for their daily problems. The Maison des Livreurs has provided support to more than 150 riders to-date regarding a number of problems, such as unfair termination of accounts, exceeding of P2P revenue ceiling, problems with the app facial recognition or with the validation of personal documents, support with the accident insurance procedure, and issues in the creation of riders’ accounts. The Maison des Livreurs also serves as a space for worker organising, including the preparation of several demonstrations in front of the Uber HQ in Brussels, such as the ones organized in coordination with Uber drivers on 30 May 2023, aimed at opening a human channel of communication with the platform. 

Bogus self-employment and its impact on riders’ safety

The Maison des Livreurs actively demands a general presumption of employment status for delivery riders, considering the current employment model adopted by the two main food delivery platforms, UberEats and Deliveroo, to be one of bogus self-employment.

Academic research and evidence collated from riders and their representatives on the ground clearly prove the link between the bogus self-employment model and the serious issues of occupational health and safety that characterise the food delivery sector. 

The leading scholar on this topic is Professor Nicola Christie of University College London. In her articles on the topic (1, 2), Christie has highlighted a series of elements that evidence how digital platforms’ employment model brings major risks to food delivery riders, which I have also found during my investigation. 

The main element that contributes to making the job dangerous is that riders under the Peer-to-peer regime (85% of the total) work on a piecework basis, receiving a very low pay per delivery (4.42€ net in Brussels). As Camille Peeters of the Brussels’ Couriers Collective explains, “there are riders who work 70 to 80 hours a week” to make a living out of such a low pay rate, as waiting time between deliveries is not paid. This causes riders to feel under pressure, leading them to take hazardous behaviours on the road, such as running red lights and speeding. Robillard explained that “the rider always has the problem to deliver fast” and Sébastien, an UberEats rider, confirmed that this is especially true when delivering for a platform is the person’s main source of revenue: “Personally, I drive my scooter with caution and respecting all traffic rules, but this is not my main job. I understand that certain riders can feel the pressure, especially when it is their main source of revenue. It’s paid by delivery, so you either deliver a lot, or you don’t eat.” Abdel, a rider who works for UberEats two shifts a day, has had two accidents in the last two years: in both cases, even though he was injured, the pressure to deliver made him decide to carry on and reach the client to complete the delivery.

“Fatigue is a contributory factor to road collisions” identified Christie in her research. Completing a high number of orders per day implies working longer hours. Riders get out and ride in all weather conditions, especially during times of high demand, such as in the evening and at night, resulting in both mental and physical fatigue. Robillard, who had five accidents while he worked as a rider, says that all but one of his accidents happened towards the end of his shift. “Although I wore a fluorescent jacket and had three powerful lights, the visibility is low, drivers are not necessarily careful, and sometimes drunk,” he says. “Even though I was always careful and respectful of traffic rules, after working shifts of 10 hours, anything can happen”. 

Christie also found that the lack of safety equipment or safety training provided by the platforms was a risk factor. The Deliveroo website states that riders must be equipped with a reflective jacket, a phone mount, and a helmet. But none of this material is provided for the riders, who have to buy them via the Deliveroo website. UberEats does not provide any material either, as Sébastien confirmed: “You even have to pay for your isothermal bag”. He went on to explain that no safety training about road safety practices or traffic rules is provided to new riders, and the only safety measures taken by platforms consists of checking some boxes occasionally when you log into the application: ‘Are you wearing a helmet? Are you wearing gloves? Are your lights working well?’. There is no verification process. “You just need to lie, and you are ready to go,” Sébastien said. The lack of safety training for riders is, according to Robillard, a major safety issue: “There are so many riders who are not trained to cycle in the city. To improve the road safety for riders, platforms should first employ us – to remove the pressure aspect – and secondly give us all a proper training and verify that riders are in the right conditions to cycle in the city.”

Christie’s research shows that the lack of training and safety equipment responds to the objective of platforms to avoid the appearance of an employer. Robillard had the same inclination: “What platforms care about is that nobody is able to prove that there is a subordination link, it is important to hide it in the best way possible.”

Riders are actively incentivised to work in adverse weather conditions, when demand is high. UberEats sends them notifications with encouragement to log in and deliver when weather conditions are bad. In July 2021, when heavy storms hit Belgium causing multiple deaths in the southern regions, UberEats sent a message to riders telling them to “increase your revenue, get out and ride!”. Sébastien said that he worked during those days, when the tunnels and parks were closed, but “now I regret it, I wouldn’t do it again”. At most, riders sometimes receive messages through the app telling them to be careful when it rains heavily, or to warn that there is snow or ice on the streets, but the platforms never suspend their services in extreme weather.

The role of the app in food delivery is described in Christie’s research as “highly distracting with the need to continually look down at the phone”. Riders constantly receive notifications with new deliveries while they are cycling, and they have only 15 seconds to decide whether to accept or refuse them. “We should stop on the side of the road to check the phone, but we don’t want to miss interesting deliveries. So, I admit that I don’t always do it,” Sebastien said. “You can pay dearly for these moments of distraction”. Farhat, an Uber Eats rider, said he fell from his bike and broke his collarbone, after he checked a notification of the app and slipped on a drain. An accident that prevented him from riding for almost a year. 

Surveys and interviews with riders conducted by Christie show that in case of an accident, platforms are mostly concerned about what happens to the delivery, and less about the health of the rider. This finding is reflected in the story of Sebastien who, after a crash with a car during a delivery, had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance with a bleeding foot. It was at this moment that his phone started ringing non-stop. Still under shock, he finally picked up: it was a member of Uber staff, who was not worried at all about his health, but who only asked him to cancel the delivery on the app. 

Finally, Christie also finds that an important aspect of creating a safety culture in companies is the element of having a personal relationship between managers and workers, for example by appointing a person responsible for “managing the safety (…) monitoring crashes and learning lessons from them”. “You need people who care about the safety of workers,” she stated in an online roundtable about road safety and gig economy. But this is something that in the functioning of digital platforms is completely lacking, as one of the most central features of the platforms’ algorithmic management is the total lack of human communication between platforms and workers. The only communication channel provided by the platform is the online messaging system on the app, which is completely insufficient to properly address the problems of workers, be it related to accidents or to anything else. “The first thing Uber should do to improve the security at work, even before guaranteeing us a real insurance scheme, is to set up a communication system managed by human staff,” Farhat argued. Sebastien said that he “tried to explain my problem in every way, but every time I received an automated response. When you try to speak to Uber, you speak to robots.”

UberEats and Deliveroo state on their website that the safety of riders is their priority, but this claim is unjustified when considering academic studies which have found that their employment model is a major cause of hazardous behaviour for riders, and especially when listening to the personal stories of riders who had accidents, such as Sébastien, Abdel, Farhat, and Jean Bernard. 

The limitation of platform insurances

The evidence suggests this is a dangerous job, which implies a high number of accidents. The riders’ self-employed status makes it particularly difficult to collect complete statistical data about the number of accidents of food delivery riders, also due to the posture of platforms when it comes to workers’ personal data, which is characterised by an attitude of absolute opaqueness. This lack of transparency by Uber on the management and sharing of personal data has been verified by the decision of the Court of Amsterdam on 4 April 2023, which has judged that automatic deactivations and terminations of couriers’ accounts – a practice utilised by Uber in all countries where it is active – are in violation of Article 22 of the GDPR. The same behaviour is adopted also when it comes to sharing information about riders’ accidents. As Martin Willems (United Freelancers) explains me: “Platforms don’t help us at all. Even in the case of the death of Sultan Zadran, where it seems like an evident case where the insurance policy should have been activated, apparently they did not. Everything remains unclear”. 

Even though it is not possible to retrieve recent data on the number of self-employed riders which incurred in accidents in the last years, figures on riders’ accidents are available regarding the period in which they were employed through the convention between SMart and the now-terminated Take Eat Easy and Deliveroo, until early 2018. These numbers are particularly concerning: in total, 3800 delivery riders worked under this convention. In 2017, the riders’ work accidents represented 51% of the work accidents declared by workers employed by SMart, with riders representing only 11% of the people working through SMart. According to these figures, riders at that time had a probability 15 times greater than other workers to have a work accident. If we consider that these numbers refer to a period when the riders were subject to better working conditions than now – as they were hired via a proper employment contract – we can assume that the current situation might be even worse. 

When they were employed via the convention signed between Deliveroo and SMart, riders were not only enjoying an hourly payment, but also could take advantage of a proper assurance-loi, which covered all the medical expenses after an accident took place. Robillard said that in his case it was a game-changer, as the consequences of his several accidents required him to bear expensive dentistry bills, which would have been unaffordable if he was not a salaried worker. 

Instead, the P2P status does not provide any insurance coverage to workers, but platforms who hire riders as independent contractors provide them with private insurance schemes. Martin Willems said that the very existence of these policies is somewhat contradictory, as platforms consider their workers as independent partners, and this reveals the reality of their “bogus self-employment”. These partnerships between platforms and private insurance companies, such as Qover and Allianz, are the result of the protests and demonstrations of riders in early 2018 against the introduction of the Peer2Peer status. They are completely voluntary, as Martin Willems explained: “The only reason why platforms adopted these schemes was linked to public relations: as they were targeted by workers’ demonstrations, they decided to provide this insurance to be able to show themselves to public opinion as responsible companies.”

However, after an analysis of the conditions of the insurance schemes of Deliveroo and UberEats – which are very similar to one another – and hearing the personal stories of riders and their representatives, it is possible to conclude that these insurance schemes are of a much lower quality compared to the ones guaranteed to salaried workers, for example the riders of TakeAway. 

The first major difference is that, in platforms’ insurance schemes, the burden of proof that the accident is linked to the work performance is totally on the worker, while for employees the presumption is that it happened during work, and it is up to the insurance to prove the contrary. To be able to file their insurance claim, self-employed riders must provide all evidence to clarify the circumstances of the accidents, such as witness statements, tracking data at the time of the accident, medical records and periodical evidence of incapacity. The Deliveroo website even encourages riders to “open your eyes and collect evidence of the situation” after an accident, something that is not always the easiest thing to do when injured or in a state of shock. 

The whole procedure for insurance claims must be carried out online, via the application (in case of Uber) or through an online form for the Deliveroo riders. The fact that insurance companies are often based outside of Belgium makes it even more difficult for riders – when not impossible – to receive support from human staff. Martin Willems explained that while supporting riders in filing their claim, he had to speak on the phone to an English operator and send emails in English, a requirement that obviously represents a potential barrier for riders. Farhat, an UberEats rider who tried to get compensated for his accident through the platforms’ insurance, explained to me all the difficulties he encountered in the process before he had to abandon his file: “I checked that I respected all conditions to be insured, I did the procedure through the application, I provided all the information and documents requested, I sent everything to an English email address, but I never got a reply. I tried to call a number, but I received no help at all. This shows a total lack of respect for workers”. 

Due to these complications, no riders who I talked to successfully accessed the insurance after making a claim. On behalf of the Maison des Livreurs and of United Freelancers, Willems supported about 15 riders in their insurance claim. “We help them fill in the documents and we try to establish a contact with the insurance. We pay attention to describing the accident’s circumstances in such a way that the responsibility for the accident cannot be turned on the rider. We have the expertise to do that, but for the riders it is very difficult to follow the whole procedure”. he explained. Unfortunately, even with this support, “nobody managed to get their compensation”. His feeling is that the number of riders that sought help at the Maison des Livreurs for this problem is not indicative of the number of accidents occurring on the streets. An observation supported by Farhat: “I personally know many colleagues who tried to get their compensation from Uber, but never succeeded. They don’t declare the accident, because they know that the process is going to be too lengthy and difficult, or they abandon it during the process.”

Another reason why many accidents go under the radar is linked to the fact that many riders work with another person’s account, and under the P2P status this is not allowed. Among them, there are many undocumented workers: “Riders working via another rider’s account prefer to run away after an accident, as they will have problems with the police when filing the report, but in this way, there is no chance to get compensated” Willems explained. 

For riders on bikes or mopeds who incur accidents involving a car, it is much easier and more convenient to activate the insurance of the driver through a report. The example of Sebastien, an UberEats rider who had a collision with a car and decided not to embark in the platforms’ insurance, is illustrative: “The driver was clearly at fault, and he recognised it on the spot, so I did not hesitate to go through his insurance. Even though the Maison des Livreurs offered me their support to get compensated by Uber, I decided not to start a process that would have been long and intricated.” 

Asked about these difficulties, UberEats responded that “in the last years, riders have received compensation via our insurance”. However, the compensation for these workers is significantly lower than the ones guaranteed to salaried workers, for example the riders of Just Eat TakeAway. The insurance scheme guaranteed to employed workers by law in case of accidents (assurance-loi) covers all medical expenses and 90% of the salary during the time of incapacity; instead, the platforms’ insurances only provide lump sums, up to 50.000 € for total disability or death. For permanent disability, employed workers receive an annual income that is calculated multiplying the salary by the percentage of disability. The United Freelancers union has calculated that this amount, considering a worker on a minimum wage, can be even 40 times higher than the lump sum of 50.000 € guaranteed to platform workers.

Here is a table summing up the main differences in the insurance schemes for accidents across platforms.

Duration of the insurance coverageHospitalisation compensationDaily compensation from being unable to workMedical expenses coverage Permanent disability paymentIn case of death
Deliveroo (Qover)Until one-hour after a delivery is completed€50 per day, up to 60 days and up to €3000€20 per day up to a max of €280Up to €7,500Up to €50,000€50,000
Uber Eats (Allianz)Up to 15 minutes after a delivery is completedUp to 3 months, with at least 24 hours combined of hospitalisation and a €800 payment€55 per day, for 30 daysUp to €7,500Up to €50,000€50,000
TakeAway (Assurance-loiDuring work hours and on the way from and to the workplaceFull compensation90% of salary Fully covered An income until death, dependent on the rate of incapacity*Temporary or permanent income depending on the relationship to the victim

*If the incapacity rate is under 5%: the amount will be the result of 50% of worker’s salary X % of incapacity

If the incapacity rate is between 5 and 10%: 75% of worker’s salary X % of incapacity.

If the Incapacity rate is over 10%: 100 % worker’s salary X % of incapacity.

UberEats comments that its insurance scheme is “an important safety net against risks such as work accidents”, but this seems like a questionable argument when we analyse the duration and the financial compensation of its scheme, in contrast with the ones guaranteed by the assurance-loi. The fact that the burden of proof is on the worker, the claiming procedures must be fulfilled online with little to no human support, and language barriers due to the insurance company being located outside of Belgium compound the problems with this scheme. 

Riders and their representatives have come to similar conclusions about the platforms’ policies. Farhat said that “Uber’s lack of respect for workers is proved by the fact that, in case of accidents, they count on the fact that riders will activate the insurances of the drivers at fault”, a remark echoed by Willems, who observed that “the platforms’ insurances only complement the insurances of drivers, but I still have to come across somebody who managed to get something from this insurance”.

Does the new Belgian law on platform work address the lack of safety for riders?

This piece has evidenced how the occupational health and safety risks that delivery riders experience daily are inextricably linked to the bogus self-employment through which platforms hire them. In the last years, the self-employed status of riders has been targeted and judged bogus and unlawful by national courts all over Europe. The Belgian court decision of 2021, which allows Deliveroo to keep hiring its workers as independent partners, was an outlier. While waiting for the appeal judgement on this case, the use of the P2P regime by platforms is still allowed by SPF Finance and the Ministry of Economy, despite the Brussels Labour Court’s judgement.

In the meantime, the “Deal pour l’emploi” approved on 3 October 2022 and entered into force in January 2023 introduces two sets of criteria for employment presumption for platform workers; if either two of five or three of eight criteria are met, the platform worker qualifies as an employee. 

How should this presumption of employment work in practice? A labour inspectorate investigates a platform and decides whether the self-employed status of the worker corresponds to his real working conditions. If this is not the case, it can order the platform to provide workers with an employment contract. The platform can then challenge the decision in court, and in that way the burden of proof to make a legal challenge has switched from the worker to the platform. This is the way in which a general presumption of employment should work, as foreseen in the European Parliament’s proposal for the EU Platform Work Directive.

However, in the Belgian law there is no clear statement about the reversal of the burden of proof on to platforms. Without this element, a labour inspection which finds false self-employment leads to court cases that last years, as we have seen in the case of the Deliveroo process.

Both the criteria for employment presumption and the definition of platforms are formulated in a way that is subject to interpretation. As INASTI (Institut national d’assurances sociales pour travailleurs indépendants) has found, the law provides for obligations to “plateformes donneuses d’ordre”, but this definition cannot be decided by INASTI or other social inspectors. For this reason, the application of this law can be questioned by food delivery platforms, as Deliveroo has done in a letter to United Freelancers stating that they are “convinced that on the basis of [the law]…the status of employee cannot be presumed in the case of couriers using our platform”. 

Another major problem is the scope of the law, which is supposed to cover “platform workers”; but people under the P2P regime are not considered workers, so this excludes automatically from the scope of the law the vast majority of riders.  This aspect is particularly problematic because even though the law introduces a work accident insurance for platform workers at the same level as the assurance-loi, the insurance does not cover the 85% of riders, who work under the collaborative economy regime. 

The measures of the law regarding insurance accidents can only be enforced by the approval of a government’s act called arrêté royal,which is still blocked by deputy prime minister David Clarinval, ostensibly for budgetary reasons, but according to Martin Willems, for “political reasons”. 

Asked by me about these shortcomings, Nicolas Gillard, spokesperson of the Dermagne cabinet commented that the “scope of application of the Belgian law is very similar to the one defined by the proposal for the EU Directive on Platform Work” and that “given the delays in the judgement of the Deliveroo process on the applicability or not of the P2P status for platform workers, it is still too early to judge the effectiveness of the law”.

The timeline of the appeal decision of the Deliveroo process was known in advance, thus this statement fails to explain why the Belgian law on platform workers has not succeeded in reclassifying any rider as an employee 12 months after the legislation was enacted.

Additionally, the government’s argument that the scope of application of the Belgian law corresponds to the one proposed in the EU Platform Work Directive, whose final text was approved on 13 December 2023 (pending an approval vote of the Council of the EU), should put into question the possible effectiveness of the EU directive. Since the Belgian law, based on a series of criteria for employment presumption, has failed to improve the working conditions and the safety at work of any delivery riders, why wouldn’t the same failure occur if repeated in all 27 member states?

The European Parliament’s proposal foresaw a general presumption of employment without criteria and the reversal of the burden of proof so that platforms must provide evidence on a workers’ genuine self-employment. Instead, the final text of the Directive, which is the result of the compromise with the Council’s position, foresees that the mechanism to trigger the presumption of employment should only be activated once a similar set of criteria to the ones included in the Belgian law are met. This poses legitimate doubts over whether the recently approved EU directive will be able to provide delivers riders with employment contracts, which my investigation has found are key to reducing the risks posed by food delivery to the health and security of the workers. 

Sultan Zadran was the first delivery rider who died on the streets of Brussels, but many fatal accidents in Europe have been taking riders’ life while they were delivering food for little pay. A 22-year-old rider from Pau, France, is at the time of writing fighting for his life after an accident while he was delivering. Platforms, who use well-crafted slogans to claim how much they care about the safety of their workers, have until now washed their hands of their responsibilities for their wellbeing, including the most important issue of all, the safety of their riders.

It is the task of policymakers at all levels to make sure platforms assume their responsibilities and provide workers with decent working conditions and proper contracts that do not force them to risk their life to make ends meet. If the Belgian government and the EU institutions continue failing to do so, we will keep seeing more fatal accidents involving platform workers on the streets of our cities. 

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