Work environment responsibility of platform companies is examined in Swedish court

11-2018

Call it what you will - self-employed, contractor, umbrella workers, freelancers – contract work in the platform industry is still quite a new development, and the phenomenon is growing.

Platform companies offer to manage an individual service provider's invoicing and social security contribution/income tax payment. Using a platform company allows an individual to provide services to his or her clients without registering as a sole trader or setting up a one man company. When individuals work through a platform company, they are considered employees of the platform company (rather than independent, self-employed consultants).

When an individual works for a client via a platform company, it's not always obvious which of the parties involved is responsible for the work environment.

This is why the Swedish Work Environment Authority has requested the Stockholm Administrative Court of Appeal (Sw. Kammarrätten i Stockholm) to re-assess the case of the Swedish platform company "Cool Company" in order to provide a precedent for the future.

It was back in 2016 that the Swedish Work Environment Authority inspected a work place where an individual service provider retained through the Cool Company was working on a roof. The Swedish Work Environment Authority fined the Cool Company SEK 400,000 due to the lack of fall protection equipment.

The Cool Company contested the fine, arguing that although it was the employer of the service provider, it was not responsible for the work environment in this particular case as another contractor company organised the work for the end client (i.e. the property owner). The Cool Company further argued that the other contractor company managed the work on-site, and that the Cool Company never had any direct contact or contract with the property owner.

The Stockholm Administrative Court (Sw. Förvaltningsrätten i Stockholm) agreed that there had been a lack of fall protection at the work site. However, the court ruled that the Swedish Work Environment Authority had not proven that the Cool Company was managing the site where workers were working on a roof without fall protection equipment, thus there was no legal basis to fine the Cool Company.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority has appealed the decision, and is now waiting to find out whether the Stockholm Administrative Court of Appeal (Sw. Kammarrätten i Stockholm) will re-examine the case. If the appeal is granted, it would be the first time the work environmental responsibility for platform workers is examined in Swedish court.