Spain court rules against Amazon over freelance drivers

A Spanish court has ruled that over 2,000 people who used their own vehicles to deliver packages for Amazon as self-employed freelancers should have been hired by the firm as formal employees.

Spain court rules against Amazon over freelance drivers
Spain to fine Amazon. Photo: JONAS ROOSENS / BELGA / AFP

The Madrid labour court said in Thursday’s ruling that these workers were “false freelancers” who should have been tied to the US firm with work contracts.

It also ordered the online shopping giant to pay social security contributions for the 2,166 people it hired under the guise of freelancers, according to a copy of the ruling seen Friday by AFP.

The court did not say how much the measure would cost but Spanish trade union UGT, which filed the complaint against Amazon, put the price tag at “several million” euros.

The union said this is the first time a court has ruled against the company’s Amazon Flex service, which works like ride-hailing service Uber.

Drivers use an app to sign up for shifts to pick up packages at warehouses and deliver them to Amazon customers’ doors.

Amazon Flex ceased operating in Spain in 2021 just before the country passed a law requiring delivery riders to be recognised as employees instead of self-employed contractors.

READ ALSO – OFFICIAL: Delivery riders become company staff as Spain’s labour reform kicks in

UGT said it would “continue to fight so that the rights of workers who provide services on digital platforms are respected” and to avoid “situations of labour exploitation”.

Amazon had argued it only acts as an intermediary that connects retailers and distributors – a claim rejected by the court.

It said in its ruling that Amazon used an app to direct and coordinate the drivers who “lacked their own autonomous business organisation”.

Amazon said it disagreed with the court’s rationale and would appeal the ruling.

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What to be aware of before accepting a part-time job in Spain

Understanding the ins and outs of part-time contracts, the different types, your rights, and what it means for claiming state aid, can be crucial for making a decision about your working life in Spain.

What to be aware of before accepting a part-time job in Spain

Part-time contracts in Spain are, in theory, pretty similar to elsewhere. They are essentially employment agreements between an employee and an employer when the number of working hours per week is less than that of a full working week.

The Spanish government recently committed to cutting the working week to 37.5 hours, but this will be phased in over time and we can assume, for now, that the standard working week is still generally around 40 hours.

READ ALSO: Spain set to slash work week to 37.5 hours

What types of part-time contracts are there in Spain?

In Spain, there are mainly two types of part-time contracts. These are:

1. Indefinite part-time contract (contrato indefinido a tiempo parcial)

The contract is for an indefinite period of time, i.e. there is no predetermined end to the employment relationship. This is the most typical contract for steady, stable part-time work such as a host in a restaurant or shop assistant who only works works a few hours per day alongside studies or childcare responsibilities.

2. Part-time fixed-term contract (contrato a tiempo parcial por duración determinada)

In these cases, the contract is drawn up with an end date in mind and comes to an end after a certain amount of time.

This fixed-term contract is more common for seasonal jobs, such as fruit pickers or waiters working in a beach bar over the busy summer season, and are often repeated on an annual basis.

Are part-time contracts different from full-time jobs in Spain?

Part-time contracts in Spain share most of the same characteristics as full-time contracts, in that they will include the same workers’ rights and be covered under the same collective bargaining agreement. However, they usually include some differences:

  • Obviously, the contract’s main difference will be that it establishes a working week of less than the 40 hours that full-time staff work. Your contract should specify your hours.
  • They do not allow overtime (except in emergencies).
  • Part-time contracts can later be converted into a full-time contract, as long as the employee agrees. Under no circumstances may a new contract be imposed by the employer.
  • Part-time contracts are also compatible, in most cases, with state aid such as unemployment benefits and partial retirement pensions.

READ ALSO: The jobs in Spain for which speaking English is a big advantage

How many hours should a part-time contract be?

Obviously the exact number depends on the position, sector, and agreement you make with your employer, but normally in Spain a part-time contract is one that is between 30-35 hours per week, although many contracts are also for 20 hours per week (4 hours per day spread across normal 5 day working week) or even less.

How are part-time contracts drawn up in Spain?

Again, much of this is similar to everywhere else, but in Spain all contracts, whether part-time or full-time, must be formalised in writing. This means that, in order for the contract to be legitimate, it must be formally signed.

For part-time contracts, the following conditions must be met:

  • A job contract in writing, with the number and distribution of daily hours for which the worker is hired clearly specified. Often in Spain, if this information is not outlined, it is assumed that the contract is full-time.
  • Once drawn up and signed, the employer must communicate the contract to the Spain’s SEPE (Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal) within 10 days of signing. The same applies to all contract extensions.
  • If applicable, the employer must also provide the employee’s legal representatives, should they have them, with a copy of the contract within 10 days of signing. 

Do part-time contracts have the same rights for holidays and days off?

For days off, yes, but it will depend on your exact working scheduled.

Part-time workers in Spain should also have the same amount of holiday days as full-time workers, i.e. 30 calendar days of leave per year. The type of contract, that is to say, whether it’s fixed-term or indefinite, has no bearing on holiday dates either.

READ ALSO: What are my rights to take breaks at work in Spain?

How does a part-time contract affect unemployment benefits?

It is possible, technically speaking, to work part-time while receiving unemployment benefits in Spain, but it will be reduced proportionally to the hours and proving it can involve complicated paperwork and several trips back and forth to the employment office.

Generally speaking in Spain, unemployment benefits in Spain are tied to your last employment contract. This means that, once the contractual relationship has ended, part-time jobs qualify for a lower benefit than full-time jobs.