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Sweden: The Administrative Court Ruled On Whether a Platform Company Should Be Categorized as an Employer and Thereby Be Imposed with Work Environment Responsibility Pertaining to Couriers

Author: Nina Voigt Dahl

The new ruling from the Administrative Court in Gothenburg concerns a company that received an injunction from the Work Environment Authority to take action in relation to the work environment of couriers performing work through the company’s digital platform. The company argued that they cannot be responsible for the work environment of the couriers taking assignments through the platform. The company in question provides a mobile application and enters into agreements with entities involved with food sales, along with couriers tasked with executing deliveries to customers via the platform. The Court found that an overall assessment is necessary to determine whether the platform company can be considered an employer in accordance with the purpose of the Work Environment Act. The crucial consideration in evaluating the potential employer status of the platform company revolves, according to the Court, around the degree of control exercised over the organisation of work and working conditions.

The Court’s assessment includes the following: the platform serves as an intermediary, connecting the abovementioned selling entities with both customers and couriers. The couriers, in this context, are either self-employed individuals possessing a tax licence or are employed by a staffing company. Therefore, these couriers do not have an employment relationship with the company itself, and they maintain autonomy in determining the extent to which they engage in delivery services. The company does not provide an assurance of minimum wage to the couriers, who are also responsible for covering the costs associated with the fulfilment of their assignments. Furthermore, the couriers are not under an obligation to wear the company’s branded attire, and they retain the freedom to undertake assignments for competitors in the industry.

The Administrative Court concluded that the couriers cannot be regarded as employees of the platform company. Furthermore, due to the company’s greatly limited capacity to influence the courier’s work environment and the very limited extent of the company’s ability to oversee and manage the courier’s work, the company cannot be imposed with a work environment responsibility to the couriers.

On this subject, it should be added that new legislation on employment conditions for persons working via platforms is expected to be adopted at the EU level through the so-called Platform Work Directive. The draft directive proposes a presumption that an employment relationship exists if at least three of a series of conditions are met. The conditions are based on the degree of control over the performance of the work. It will, however, be possible to rebut this presumption if the platform company can show that no employment relationship exists. The proposed directive was presented by the European Commission in December 2021 and adopted by the Council in June 2023. The proposal will now be negotiated with the European Parliament before its final adoption.

Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-House Counsel

An overall assessment is required when determining whether a platform worker should be classified as an employee. At Cederquist, we closely follow legal developments regarding platform work. You are welcome to contact us if you have questions about, for example, work environment responsibility or the distinction between employment and contractor relationships.