Wolt’s thoughts on the Labour Council opinion on platform work – “We all want fair rules”

On Thursday (October 15), we received a written opinion from the Finnish Labour Council. This council is formed by three members from labor unions, three members from trade associations and three experts (from ministry of labour, state administration and a vice-judge). The council is an independent entity that provides opinions about Finnish employment. These opinions are not legally binding – they are statements for the Finnish authorities, employers and workers to consider. 

In their statement about Wolt and our way of working with couriers, 6 out of 9 council members think that our freelancer couriers should be classified as employees with regards to their working hours. 3 out of the 9 members left a separate statement stating that they think the opposite: all couriers should be considered contractors. 

We give value to the council’s opinion and respect the council for having taken the time to look into the topic of platform work. In the coming weeks, we’re expecting a reach-out from the Regional State Administrative Agency (AVI) to discuss the potential implications and any possible practicalities in detail.

We are surprised with the council’s opinion. In all previous interactions with other Finnish authorities (for example the tax inspection by the state revenue service), the authorities have clearly classified couriers as self-employed. We are now studying the opinion in more detail, and in the next weeks we’ll figure out what action, if any, we’ll be taking. 

What would employment  mean for the couriers?

The public debate about platform work is very understandable. Societies across the world are trying to figure out this new type of work, and both the employment and the contractor model have their own pros and cons.

In a contractor relationship, work is very flexible, but the individual has more responsibilities when it comes to social security and safety nets. From a platform company’s perspective, work can be offered to a large number of people – in Finland, we have 4,000 courier partners – without job interviews or probation periods. There are no tight language-skill or educational background requirements. These elements are crucial for many people in a situation where it’s tough to find work.

Entering an employment model would radically change the work of the couriers at its very core. This model would improve safety nets, but leave couriers with a lot less flexibility. As contractors, couriers freely choose when, where and how much they work. They can accept or decline deliveries. In an employment model, couriers would be assigned a boss, shifts (time slots during which you have to work), and a specific area where the work could be carried out. Hourly gross earnings would be lower. A courier could no longer freely choose, for example, their delivery vehicle. If employed, the courier could not decline to deliver any orders from Wolt, and they’d be subject to regular performance evaluations.

It’s also extremely important to remember that in an employment model, we would not be able to offer work to the majority of our current courier partners. First, we’d have to terminate thousands of contractor relationships, after which we would open new employment-type positions only to significantly fewer people. Before landing the job, couriers would have to go through a formal interview process, followed by a probation period. All in all, there would be higher barriers for becoming a courier and Wolt could offer work to less people.

What happens next?

As a responsible company, we feel it’s important that we take all of the previously mentioned factors into account when making any decisions that can affect so many people. Our next step is to have an in-depth conversation with the Regional State Administrative Agency to better understand our choices going forward.

We all want fair rules in working life, and enable earning opportunities for as many people as possible. Now we’re looking for the best way to do that.