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Italy – Tribunal verdict on food delivery riders confirms their independent status

Written by
Toffoletto de Luca Tamajo, working in employment law since 1925.
In July 2018 the Milan employment tribunal held that a rider working for the food delivery app service Glovo was a self-employed contractor and not an employee, the second Italian decision to adopt this approach. However the new Italian Minister of Labour has also declared an interest in food delivery riders and their rights, convening a round table with workers, companies and unions to find an Italian solution to the (worldwide) questions this model poses. 

Food delivery riders in Italy: an evolving relationship

The gig economy (or the on-demand economy, platform-based services, in-app collaborations, fourth industrial revolution work, however you choose to describe it) has been front-page news in employment law recently. Its impact, of course, is not limited to employment: the gig model involves technology, working and living habits, regulators and consumers alike. The food delivery sector is one of the most active (and visible) in this context. We have all seen riders cycling through the streets, delivering food through app-based systems. We have all read cases, decisions, and articles (hopefully also Ius Laboris guides) on the gig economy and riders’ status.

Italy is very active on this front and a recent court decision has intensified the debate around this model. Now is a good moment to stop and see what has happened over the last few months.

On 1 June 2018, his first day in office, thenew Minister of Labour Luigi Di Maio addressed food delivery riders and made a public declaration regarding their situation. He called for the protections that are needed to ensure dignity in this type of work.

After the declaration, a Ministry negotiation round tablewas called between players in the food delivery sector including companies, unions, trade associations and the riders’ association. The round table is ongoing and is analysing the model and dynamics of the sector.

In the meantime, the key employment law questions on riders’ status received a second court-sanctioned answer: they are independent workers, according to the Milan Employment Tribunal.

This is the current situation in Italy; there are likely to be further developments before the year is out.

The Milan decision

The Milan case involved a rider’s claim for employee status against the company Glovo. The judge rejected the claim, after a trial with written submissions and witness statements. His reasoning, published on 10 September 2018, was based on the following arguments:

  • The riders’ freedom to determine if and when to work by choosing to log into the system (or not) and by accepting (or not accepting) delivery proposals is not compatible with employment.
  • A ‘fidelity’ score that might limit a rider’s access to booking slots does not amount to disciplinary power over the rider by the company; not performing work has no disciplinary consequences (no termination, suspension or sanctions).
  • The working model, as factually verified in the case, did not allow for the direction, organisation and monitoring by an employer found in employment relationships.


These were the judge’s main arguments, leaving aside some relevant but country-specific technical ones. This decision is the second in Italy, after the Turin Foodora decision in April (analysed here ).