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Company was not responsible for its contractors’ work environment

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Legal news
calendar 19 December 2021
globus Sweden

There are currently ongoing discussions about so-called platform workers in the EU. That the topic gives rise to issues in practice is illustrated by a recent case, where the Swedish Administrative Court of Appeal found that a company was not the employer of contractors who worked via its app. Among other things, the reason was that the company did not have the possibility to ensure or be responsible for the contractors’ work environment. The company could neither lead or distribute their work.

It is common knowledge that companies as a main rule are responsible for its employees’ health and safety. This includes, among other things, that companies must ensure a good working environment.

However, it is not always entirely clear who the employer is. This was the case here, where a company has created a digital platform via an app, which provides different types of work and assignments for customers. The assignments are performed by contractors.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority carried out an inspection at the company and found that the company had set aside its work environment responsibility as an employer. The company did not consider itself to be the contractors’ employer and disagreed that it had any responsibility as an employer towards the contractors.

No responsibility towards others than employees

The rules on the work environment are found in the Swedish Work Environment Act. Employers are responsible for ensuring that the rules are complied with towards its employees. As the contractors were not the company’s employees, the company could not be held responsible for the contractors’ work environment.

In its decision, the court emphasized that the contractors worked voluntarily for payment, on behalf of the customers, since the services were ordered by different customers. The court also found that there was nothing in the terms of use for the app that regulated the duration of the relationship between the company and the contractors. The company therefore had no control over the contractors’ work via the app.

In addition, the court also noted that the company neither lead or distributed the work between the contractors and the customer.

IUNO’s opinion

The EU Commission recently proposed a package which aims to improve the working conditions of platform workers and to support digital labour platforms at the EU. This case about a Swedish company using contractors to work via its digital platform shows that further regulation on the area is welcome.

Work environment responsibility is one of the most important parts of ensuring the health and safety within the company and it is therefore also important to be aware of exactly who is covered when organizing the work. IUNO recommends that companies using contractors clearly identify the risk of becoming responsible for this group’s work environment. If in doubt, companies should seek legal advice.

[Swedish Administrative Court of Appeal in Gothenburg, case 4120-21]

It is common knowledge that companies as a main rule are responsible for its employees’ health and safety. This includes, among other things, that companies must ensure a good working environment.

However, it is not always entirely clear who the employer is. This was the case here, where a company has created a digital platform via an app, which provides different types of work and assignments for customers. The assignments are performed by contractors.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority carried out an inspection at the company and found that the company had set aside its work environment responsibility as an employer. The company did not consider itself to be the contractors’ employer and disagreed that it had any responsibility as an employer towards the contractors.

No responsibility towards others than employees

The rules on the work environment are found in the Swedish Work Environment Act. Employers are responsible for ensuring that the rules are complied with towards its employees. As the contractors were not the company’s employees, the company could not be held responsible for the contractors’ work environment.

In its decision, the court emphasized that the contractors worked voluntarily for payment, on behalf of the customers, since the services were ordered by different customers. The court also found that there was nothing in the terms of use for the app that regulated the duration of the relationship between the company and the contractors. The company therefore had no control over the contractors’ work via the app.

In addition, the court also noted that the company neither lead or distributed the work between the contractors and the customer.

IUNO’s opinion

The EU Commission recently proposed a package which aims to improve the working conditions of platform workers and to support digital labour platforms at the EU. This case about a Swedish company using contractors to work via its digital platform shows that further regulation on the area is welcome.

Work environment responsibility is one of the most important parts of ensuring the health and safety within the company and it is therefore also important to be aware of exactly who is covered when organizing the work. IUNO recommends that companies using contractors clearly identify the risk of becoming responsible for this group’s work environment. If in doubt, companies should seek legal advice.

[Swedish Administrative Court of Appeal in Gothenburg, case 4120-21]

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Etgen Reitz

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