Spain: From “Riders” to “Hikers”

18 February 2019 - Monika Bertram

Just when we had incorporated the concept of “riders” into our corporate and professional slang, there is a new concept and form of working: “hikers.” But what are they?

In order to be able to define this new collective, we must work from the definition of “riders.” “Riders” come from platforms like Deliveroo or Glovo that focus their activity mainly on the delivery of take-away food. As such, the function of the “riders” consists of managing that delivery, whether on a bicycle, a motorcycle or an electric bicycle.

That new way of working for some and to render services for others is in the spotlight of both the government and our judicial system, which, as of today, are waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on whether a “rider” is an ordinary worker or, on the contrary, is a freelance worker.

Now that we have identified the “riders,” it is time to analyse what “hikers” are. This new way comes as a substitute for the traditional way of advertising on the street and on the front and back of a worker; that is, that the era of technology and the millennials modernise the sector of publicity stands substituting the traditional posters with backpacks with a tablet built in. In this way and with eye-tracking software installed in the front camera, the impact of the campaigns on pedestrians is monitored in real time when the latter come across one of these “hikers” on the street.

Although this new method is not very popular at present, it is true that in the 3.0 era in which we find ourselves, it will become a reality over the short term. Probably and faced with the foreseeable increase in “hikers,” city dwellers will be overwhelmed with so many advertising actions on the street: they will not only be in static form on the sides of buses, building façades, etc., but they will now have biped mobility and as such, the advertising incitement and stimulous will have the impact desired by brands.

How does a “hiker” work? According to sources consulted, the “hiker” must “request” his/her backpack, which implies an investment of between EUR 200 and EUR 300 and from that point on, on the path that he/she has chosen, or was assigned to him/her, be the “ambassador” of the brand being advertised. “Hiker” may or may not be freelance. The “reward,” and it is defined in such way by the start-up that is promoting this new method, will be some EUR 100-EUR 200 per month for freelancers, and for employees would be given in discounts or gift certificates for the brand used.

From a labour perspective, it will be advisable not to look at what terms companies will use to “attract” the “hikers” or how contracts will be formalised with them, but the real way of rendering services. The most likely scenario is that geolocalisation of the “hikers” through the tablets, their reward, whether in cash or through discounts, and the backpack itself may constitute signs of employment.

In any case, over the short-to-medium term the debate open regarding the “riders” will catch up with the “hikers.” The approval of Royal Decree-Law 28/2018, of 28 December, on the revaluation of public pensions and other urgent measures in social, labour and employment matters, will probably cause the Labour and Social Security Inspectorate (which, as of today, has already detected almost 18,000 false freelancers) to closely watch this new collective and perhaps impose the maximum penalty of EUR 10,000 per worker.