Just Eat Takeaway.com just made its sentiments known about how to classify gig workers — but not in the way you’d expect from a third-party delivery service. Company boss Jitse Groen told BBC this week that Just Eat Takeaway.com will “end” gig working in its operations in Europe.
“We’re a large multinational company with quite a lot of money and we want to insure our people,” he said. “We want to be certain they do have benefits, that we do pay taxes on those workers.”
“Large multinational company” aptly describes Just Eat Takeaway.com these days. The company itself is the product of Netherlands-based Takeaway.com’s recent acquisition of the U.K.’s Just Eat. And in June, the newly formed company announced it would acquire Grubhub, creating the largest food delivery service in the world outside of China.
All that M&A means more hiring. But this hasn’t been a particularly easy time for gig workers, in Europe or elsewhere. With the pandemic keeping more folks at home, delivery orders are up. That demand renders the folks driving or biking the food to customers frontline workers at higher risk of exposure to the coronavirus. Under the status of gig worker, these individuals do not have access to certain workplace protections (e.g., paid sick leave) they would as employees.
Just Eat Takeaway.com’s changes to worker classification may only apply to Europe right now, but the company has operations all over the globe. The aforementioned Grubhub deal will soon give the company a presence in the U.S., too, where the debate over gig workers is especially heated right now. Just this week, a California judge ordered Uber and Lyft to reclassify its contract workers as employee. For Uber, that would mean changing the underlying model around its Eats business, too.
Groen did not say when the change for its his company’s European workers would take place. And how Just Eat Takeaway.com handles U.S.-based workers once the Grubhub deal kicks in remains to be seen.
While Just Eat Takeaway.com looks to remove many of the downsides of gig worker jobs, others are spending millions to fight any changes to the system. At some point a new standard around benefits for these workers might emerge from the fight. Let’s hope it’s one that values human health and well-being over food delivery’s ever-elusive path to profitability.