labor rights

DOLE: Still ‘premature’ to say food delivery riders are company employees

Aika Rey

EMPLOYEE OR NOT? A Foodpanda biker delivers food.


The Foodpanda issue puts the so-called 'gig economy' in the spotlight again, with workers being considered contractors and not employees

It is still premature to say that food delivery riders should be considered company employees, a labor official said on Wednesday, July 21.

In a media briefing, Labor Undersecretary Benjo Benavidez said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is still determining whether the riders are employees or independent contractors.

“Ang iba’t ibang bahagi ng mundo, mayro’n ding ganitong kaso. Iba-iba ang treatment nila sa mga riders. Tayo dito sa Pilipinas, may mga panuntunan o mga test na kailangan tignan para makita kung ang isang rider ay isang independent contractor [o empleyado],” Benavidez said.

(In different parts of the world, there are cases like this. The treatment of riders varies. Here in the Philippines, we have rules and tests that we need to apply first to determine if a rider is an independent contractor or an employee.)

This comes as delivery riders in Davao City are protesting about Foodpanda’s pay structure, saying it is unjust.

The Foodpanda issue puts the so-called “gig economy” in the spotlight again, with riders and related workers being considered contractors and not employees.

Since this is a relatively new type of arrangement, Benavidez said, there are no specific laws or jurisprudence that cover it yet.

“Ang definite lang ay inappropriate o premature pa na magkaroon ng wholesale declaration na ang rider ay manggagawa [ng kumpanya],” the labor official said.

(What’s definite is that it is still inappropriate or premature to have a wholesale declaration that riders are indeed company employees.)

One of the most important things that DOLE needs to know is whether delivery apps like Foodpanda exercise control over their riders.

Control, according to Benavidez, is defined by jurisprudence as not only the end that needs to be achieved but also the method in which items are being delivered.

Benavidez said the labor department is set to issue an advisory on the matter this week.

Without naming any company, he added that DOLE does not want delivery riders to experience the same plight of “talents” – also considered independent contractors – who had to fight for their rights.

A group of more than 100 talents of GMA News and Public Affairs had won their regularization case at the Court of Appeals in February 2019. GMA Network elevated the case to the Supreme Court (SC) in January 2020.

In a separate case, GMA Network cameramen won against the broadcast giant in September 2020, with the SC declaring they were indeed regular employees.

Anti-endo bill

DOLE is also committed to having the anti-endo, or end of contract, bill passed by the 18th Congress, Benavidez said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said on Wednesday morning that he wrote to President Rodrigo Duterte, asking him to certify the measure as urgent again.

In 2019, Duterte vetoed the bill.

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Benavidez said the language on the prohibitions on job contracting had been too broad at the time.

He said DOLE still supports Senator Joel Villanueva’s Senate Bill No. 806, which was essentially the same version as the one vetoed. But the labor official added that some limitations have to be introduced.

This, in effect, would “balance” the concerns of labor groups and employers, according to Benavidez.

In 2019, senators were dismayed by the veto, as the President himself had certified the measure as “urgent” in September 2018.

Villanueva said the Senate labor committee, which he chairs, is still waiting for the proposed bill of the executive branch. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at