A self-employed delivery driver for the Japanese unit of Amazon.com Inc. has been deemed eligible for workers' compensation after he was injured on the job, a labor union said Wednesday.

While self-employed individuals are generally not eligible for workers' compensation, given he received direct instructions from the online shopping giant, the man in his 60s was recognized by the Yokosuka labor standards inspection office as effectively being "an employee," according to Tokyo Union.

A self-employed Amazon Japan delivery driver (R) who was deemed eligible for workers' compensation holds a press conference in Tokyo on Oct. 4, 2023. (Kyodo)

The lack of protection for workers under labor standards laws who are classified as freelancers, but who in practice undertake tasks equivalent to those of employees has become an area of concern in Japan.

The outcome could clear the way for other self-employed Amazon delivery drivers to be eligible for workers' compensation and could impact other industries that utilize similar employment practices.

It is believed to be the first time a self-employed Amazon delivery driver has been deemed eligible to receive workers' compensation, according to the labor union.

A legal team supporting the man said in a statement that the case was "groundbreaking and affirms the employee status (of Amazon delivery drivers)."

The company's sending of delivery instructions, including specific routes and the number of packages to deliver, via its smartphone app significantly influenced the labor office's decision, they said.

The man said at a press conference that he decided to apply for workers' compensation as many of his colleagues had suffered in silence after being injured on the job.

"Someone needs to speak up so that the government understands the situation," he said, adding that he hopes the case will spur an improvement in the harsh working conditions faced by delivery drivers.

The man, who makes deliveries in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, fell down a staircase and fractured his hip in September last year, according to the labor union.

He was deemed eligible for workers' compensation at the end of last month and granted payment by the government for 50 days that he was unable to work.

The man is part of a labor union formed by Amazon delivery drivers in June last year to demand their poor working conditions be rectified. The workers make deliveries from an Amazon warehouse in Yokosuka based on outsourcing agreements with primary and secondary subcontractors of the company.

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