The Finnish food service Wolt intends to continue to treat couriers as entrepreneurs and not as employees, despite the objections of the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland (Avi).
Avi has instructed Wolt to keep a record of the working hours of couriers in accordance with the Finnish Working Hours Act after the Avi inspector has examined the company’s operations.
However, Wolt said it would not follow Avi’s instructions because the couriers are not employees.
"It would be important to listen to what the couriers themselves say," Founder of Wolt Juhani Mykkänen said. "It is not fair to say to all couriers that we are forcing them into employment now because one body is of the opinion, even though most couriers want to continue as entrepreneurs."
Mykkänen referred to a survey published by the company on Wednesday, according to which just over half of the couriers said they wanted to continue as an entrepreneur.
In a study by market research firm Taloustutkimus, 56 percent of Wolt’s couriers said they wanted to continue with the current system, while 25 percent said they would choose an employment relationship.
42 percent of courier contracts with Wolt, or a total of 1,539 people, responded to the survey.
The dispute over the status of the courier is set to continue
Avin Wolt’s audit report was completed next week for a number of reasons and is expected to clarify the work process, working hours and the views of all parties.
To the inspector Juho Loukiala, Wolt ‘s position is no surprise, as the company had already sent an explanation as to why the working time register was not kept.
"Of course, the issue is very broad and complex, and this is their view on the issue. The matter is still going on inside the house [Avi], which means that I will send it to the health and safety authority," Loukiala said.
The controversy over the employment situation of couriers is therefore not far off.
The Occupational Health and Safety Authority may make a binding decision on the status of couriers, but is likely to first consult the company. Wolt can also challenge the decision of any authority in an administrative court, which can potentially take a long time.
Wolt ready for a legal battle
Mykkänen said that Wolt is always ready to take the matter to the administrative court if necessary. According to the company’s own reports, other authorities have interpreted the work done by couriers as entrepreneurial – unlike an Avi inspector.
For example, Wolt asked the tax authorities for an opinion on whether the compensation paid to the courier should be considered a salary or a company salary.
The story continues after the picture.
The tax authority’s view was that the agreement between Wolt and the courier partners is an ‘assignment relationship’, not an employment relationship, and thus comparable to entrepreneurs. In its assessment, the tax authorities assessed whether the characteristics of the mandate relationship were met in the case of Wolt’s couriers.
"According to the tax administration, this is self-employment and the Accident Compensation Board took the same position in its decision in June as the Unemployment Insurance Board and the national supervisory authority," Mykkänen stated.
Mykkänen added that the position of couriers would be improved by changing labor legislation or improving social security for the self-employed.
"Labor law needs to be changed to allow freedom of choice when, how and to what extent to work. Alternatively, the safety nets for the self-employed could be improved, for example by introducing YEL [self-employed person's pension insurance] payments made directly in connection with the payment of benefits, which would guarantee a good retirement and health insurance," Mykkänen said.
The importance of recording working time
The roots of this long process go back to August 2019, when the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland carried out inspections of food companies and found that they did not keep records of the working hours of couriers.
Avi later asked for an opinion on the matter from an independent authority under the Ministry of Economy and Labor, the Works Council, which stated that the work of food couriers meets the characteristics of an employment relationship and that they should be employees. The Council also stated that courier working hours must be recorded.
After receiving a works council opinion, Avi contacted Wolt and Foodora and urged companies to correct their working time records by mid-May, but Wolt has refused to do so.
"Recording working time is one of the main obligations of the employer. If they are employees, Wolt must keep these schedules. If they themselves feel that they are not in an employer relationship with couriers, their view may be that time and attendance do not need to be maintained," Loukiala explained.
Avi is currently conducting a similar inspection of Foodora, but the results of the investigation are still to be expected.
Source: The Nordic Page