Spain court rules against Amazon over freelance drivers

A Spanish court has ruled that over 2,000 people who used their own vehicles to deliver packages for Amazon as self-employed freelancers should have been hired by the firm as formal employees.

Spain court rules against Amazon over freelance drivers
Spain to fine Amazon. Photo: JONAS ROOSENS / BELGA / AFP

The Madrid labour court said in Thursday’s ruling that these workers were “false freelancers” who should have been tied to the US firm with work contracts.

It also ordered the online shopping giant to pay social security contributions for the 2,166 people it hired under the guise of freelancers, according to a copy of the ruling seen Friday by AFP.

The court did not say how much the measure would cost but Spanish trade union UGT, which filed the complaint against Amazon, put the price tag at “several million” euros.

The union said this is the first time a court has ruled against the company’s Amazon Flex service, which works like ride-hailing service Uber.

Drivers use an app to sign up for shifts to pick up packages at warehouses and deliver them to Amazon customers’ doors.

Amazon Flex ceased operating in Spain in 2021 just before the country passed a law requiring delivery riders to be recognised as employees instead of self-employed contractors.

READ ALSO – OFFICIAL: Delivery riders become company staff as Spain’s labour reform kicks in

UGT said it would “continue to fight so that the rights of workers who provide services on digital platforms are respected” and to avoid “situations of labour exploitation”.

Amazon had argued it only acts as an intermediary that connects retailers and distributors – a claim rejected by the court.

It said in its ruling that Amazon used an app to direct and coordinate the drivers who “lacked their own autonomous business organisation”.

Amazon said it disagreed with the court’s rationale and would appeal the ruling.

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How long do you have to work in Spain before you can claim unemployment benefits?

Unemployment benefits, known as 'el paro' in Spanish, have certain preconditions attached to them, including a set amount of time you need to work before you can claim. Here's what you need to know.

How long do you have to work in Spain before you can claim unemployment benefits?

Normally in Spain, in order to claim unemployment benefits you must have contributed a minimum of 360 days to social security within the last six years, that is, to have worked for at least one year.

But what happens if you haven’t worked in Spain for a full year? Can you still claim?

What happens if you suddenly lose your job and haven’t worked long enough to qualify?

Here’s what you need to know.

Minimum time working

Firstly, it’s important to understand unemployment benefits in Spain generally come in two types: contributory out-of-work benefits, based on what you’ve contributed in the past, or a flat rate unemployment benefit given to people with insufficient contributions.

There’s also a different type of benefit for the long-term unemployed who have exhausted their contributory benefits, though this tends to be targeted more at older workers. You can read more about it here

However, if you have worked for less than a year in Spain, you may still be entitled to some form of unemployment benefit.

According to the SEPE website (the government department that pays unemployment benefits, Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal) the type and duration of benefit depends on the number of months you have paid in social security contributions and whether or not you have family responsibilities and dependents. 

In order to qualify for el paro despite having worked for less than a year, there are also a few further requirements:

  • You must be legally unemployed
  • Be registered as a jobseeker
  • The SEPE website states that you must have paid unemployment contributions for at least 3 months if you have family responsibilities or at least 6 months if you do not, but less than 360 days. (If you have paid contributions for 360 days, you would be entitled to the full contributory benefit, which is different).

It can all sound a little technical, but fortunately, SEPE has a useful calculator which you can find here. It allows you to calculate what you’re entitled to, how much, and how for long.

Duration and amount

As mentioned above, the duration of your benefit depends on the number of months you paid contributions for and whether or not you have family responsibilities.

If you have dependents, the unemployment will last three, four or five months if you have contributed to social security for three, four or five months, respectively.

Generally speaking, if you’ve paid in more than six months the benefit will last for 21 months. If you have paid contributions for six months or more (in this case, the entitlement will be recognised for six months, and can be extended for six-month periods until its final duration).

READ ALSO: Spain approves new €600 per month unemployment benefit for artists

If you have no dependents and meet the other requirements, the benefit lasts for six months if you have paid contributions for six months or more.

In the case of permanent, discontinuous workers, known as the ‘long-term unemployed’ in Spain, the benefits last for a period equal to the total number of months of contributions made in the year preceding the application.

How much is it?

Non-contributory unemployment benefit is equal to 80 percent of public multi-purpose income indicator (or IPREM, as it’s known) the tool used to calculate public benefits in Spain. In 2023 it works out to €480 per month. Beneficiaries of this state help have received a boost in 2023, with the amount going from €463.21 per month to €480 per month, almost €17 more per month.

In the event of loss of part-time work, this amount will be paid in proportion to the hours previously worked in the last contract.

READ ALSO: How residents over 52 in Spain can get aid of up to €480 a month

During the time you receive the benefit, SEPE pays the relevant contributions corresponding to health care benefits and, where applicable, family protection and services.

In the case of unemployment benefits for workers over 52 years of age, the SEPE must also pay retirement contributions. The contribution base is 125 percent of the minimum contribution ceiling in force at any given time.