Meal delivery company Deliveroo must pay pension premiums for all its workers with an employment agreement. Such was the conclusion of the Subdistrict Court in Amsterdam on 26 August 2019 in proceedings that were brought against Deliveroo by the Pension Fund for the Transport Sector (Pensioenfonds Vervoer, hereinafter PV).
Such was the conclusion of the Subdistrict Court in Amsterdam on 26 August 2019 in proceedings that were brought against Deliveroo by the Pension Fund for the Transport Sector (Pensioenfonds Vervoer, hereinafter PV). The crux of the ruling of the Subdistrict Court is that the employees of Deliveroo fall under the scope of PV and are therefore obligated to participate in the pension scheme of PV on a mandatory basis (ECLI:NL:RBAMS:2019:6292).
Assessment by the Subdistrict Court
Based on the assessment made by the Subdistrict Court, the question whether or not the delivery of meals should be regarded as the core activity of Deliveroo was at the heart of the discussion between the parties. PV had taken the view that this was in fact the case, while Deliveroo had argued that it was not the delivery of meals but the provision of an online platform for restaurants that should be regarded as Deliveroo’s core activity. During the proceedings, Deliveroo had argued that the delivery of meals is only of the many elements in the company's marketing strategy. This argumentation was not followed by the Subdistrict Court. Deliveroo's argument that – within the business sector of commercial transport - there is no other business which can be compared to Deliveroo, did not convince the Court either. In its assessment, the Subdistrict Court of Amsterdam gives weight to the circumstances that the activities, the ordering process, the digital environment and the advertisement by Deliveroo all focus on the same ultimate goal: the delivery of meals. Incidentally, the Subdistrict Court also notes that the name of the delivery company – Deliveroo – can be interpreted as an obvious reference to the company's core activity. The Court therefore concludes that Deliveroo is obligated to pay pension premiums for all its workers with an employment agreement.
Context: earlier proceedings involving Deliveroo
During the first few years that Deliveroo was active in the Dutch market, all delivery personnel of Deliveroo worked on the basis of an employment agreement. As a result of the ruling of the Subdistrict Court of Amsterdam of 26 August 2019, Deliveroo must now pay pension contributions for all these (former) employees with retroactive effect. It’s relevant to note that, as of July 2018, the delivery personnel of Deliveroo consists exclusively of self-employed workers. Already, this development has formed the basis for several court cases. For example, back in July 2018 Jim Margry wrote an explanatory note to a decision by the Subdistrict Court of Amsterdam of 23 July 2018 (in Dutch): Special delivery Rechtbank Amsterdam: maaltijdbezorger Deliveroo is geen schijnzelfstandige. Also relevant in this context is the other Deliveroo decision by the Subdistrict Court of Amsterdam of 15 January 2019 (ECLI:NL:RBAMS:2019:198)). In its decision of 23 July 2018, the Subdistrict Court of Amsterdam gave its judgment on the question whether or not a freelance agreement that delivery worker Sytze Ferwerda had concluded with Deliveroo should be qualified as an employment agreement. In light of the recent ruling on mandatory participation of Deliveroo’s employees in the pension scheme of PV (of 26 August of this year), this question is becoming evermore interesting.