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Avi: Wolt couriers should be considered employees

Both the delivery firm and the agency are hoping to solve the employee-or-entrepreneur issue in Administrative Court.

Woltin lähetti, polkupyöräilijä ja auto kadulla.
A Wolt courier rides a monowheel in downtown Helsinki, file photo. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle
Mark Odom

People who deliver food and other items for the Finnish mobile app-based courier service Wolt should be considered employees of the company, not entrepreneurs, according to a decision by the occupational safety and health authority of the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland (Avi).

The agency said the authority's decision was based on several factors indicating that Wolt couriers are explicitly employed by the company and no one else.

In its decision, Avi reiterated previously-issued instructions for Wolt to keep a record of couriers' working hours, in accordance with Finland's Working Time Act.

Wolt said in June that it would not comply with Avi's instruction as the couriers are not employees.

Now, Avi has given the company a 14-day deadline to comply with the instructions.

Wolt's co-founder, Juhani Mykkänen, said the company plans to appeal Avi's decision at the Administrative Court.

"More than 70 percent of our couriers are of the opinion that the freedom as entrepreneurs is more important to them than the security of being employees," Mykkänen said, adding that many of the couriers hoped to take the case to court.

New work models

He noted that Avi has also said it wants to settle the matter in court.

Avi said it was difficult to take a position on a case such as this, as legislation is not up-to-date on modern working situations like Wolt's, according to an Avi press release on the matter.

Mykkänen said that shifting the status of the couriers from entrepreneurs to employees would bring about major changes.

"We would [need to] terminate the contracts of more than 5,000 couriers and thousands of people would be out of work. After that, perhaps a good couple thousand would be hired full-time, where they would have shifts and supervisors. In addition, earnings levels would fall and the freedom of work would decrease," Mykkänen said.

According to Mykkänen, Wolt wants to offer another option to the labour market and that the firm's current arrangement with couriers could not be done in an employer-employee relationship.

"The law does not allow a person to be completely free to decide, in real time, whether to work or not, or agree to all gig offers or not. This is a new way of working. If it's banned in Finland from the start, it will have quite serious consequences," he said.

Mykkänen said Wolt's couriers have more freedom than other food delivery services around the world.

"We do not engage in algorithmic management or control of the couriers, we do rank the couriers and if a courier refuses a delivery there is no repercussion of any kind," Mykkänen said.

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