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Beijing Court Holds Gig Economy Platforms Partially Liable for Employees’ Death From Overwork

Tue, 20 Dec 2022
Categories: China Legal Trends

On 11 Nov. 2022, in a case where a deliveryman died of a sudden illness while delivering food, Chaoyang Primary People’s Court of Beijing found that the food deliveryman himself, the food delivery platform (gig economy platform), and his employer (outsourcing company of the food delivery platform) should be responsible for 10%, 20%, and 70% of this situation respectively.

The deliveryman was employed by an outsourcing company that cooperated with the food delivery platform and received delivery orders from that platform.

Some magnates of Chinese gig economy platforms, such as the ride-hailing platform Didi, and takeout delivery platform Meituan, often sign cooperation agreements with outsourcing companies to hire employees in order to circumvent and transfer the employer liability to those companies.

Late at night on 9 May 2021, the deliveryman, who collapsed when suffering a sudden illness on his way to deliver food, eventually died after not being discovered for several hours. His relatives believed that the takeout platform didn’t fulfill its necessary obligation to rescue and thus brought a lawsuit against it.

After the hearing, the court held that both the takeout platform and the outsourcing company were at fault, of which the latter party, the employer, had to bear the primary responsibility. As a result, the court ruled that the two parties should pay compensation of more than 1.5 million yuan to Liu’s family.

The Chinese government has been trying to reconcile the interests of gig economy platforms with those of employees, so as to protect the rights of employees while avoiding excessive high human resource costs for gig economy platforms. For a detailed discussion, please see our previous post “Ride-hailing Drivers in China: Not Employees, But Independent Contractors”.

The views of Chinese Judges on this policy were presented in another post, which argued that: “the new policy issued by the Chinese government in July 2021 puts forward another type of relationship, namely the “quasi-employment relationship”. The policy refers to it as “a circumstance not fully consistent with the employment relationship”.

This type of “quasi-employment relationship” on the one hand, does not acknowledge that gig workers have already fallen under the employment status, and on the other hand, requires the platform to bear some of the obligations as an employer.

The purpose of this policy is to balance the interests of the platform and gig workers, namely, a compromise reached by both sides.

In other words, the quasi-employment relationship has become a buffer zone between the general civil relationship and the employment relationship.”



Cover Photo by Taha on Unsplash

Contributors: CJO Staff Contributors Team

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