EU directive on platform workers

What is it?

The EU Commission has today released a proposal that aims to improve the rights platform workers.

The digital platform economy has grown at an accelerated rate with 28 million people in the European Union (EU) thought to be working through these platforms.  According to the EU Commission, nine out of ten of these platforms in the EU currently are estimated to classify people working through them as self-employed.

While most of these workers are autonomous and act as self-employed professionals there are many who experience subordination to and varying degrees of control by the digital labour platforms they operate through and have therefore been misclassified  as self-employed. This misclassification has led to these workers not accessing fundamental rights such as the right to a minimum wage, working time regulations, occupational safety and health protection, equal pay between men and women and the right to paid leave, as well as improved access to social protection against work accidents, unemployment, sickness and old age.

The specific objectives through which the general objective will be addressed are:

The proposed directive that was released on December 9th 2021 aims to ensure that all workers that are working via digital labour platforms can enjoy the labour rights and social benefits they are legally entitled to. These new rules will establish a common set of EU rules that will provide “increased legal certainty, therefore enabling digital labour platforms to benefit fully from the economic potential of the Single Market and a level playing field.”

Another major change to the industry is that these platforms must now be transparent on how they use algorithms to monitor and evaluate workers and to set tasks and fees.

Our Reaction

At CXC we have long held the view that people who work through these digital platforms should be afforded sufficient protections similar to “Worker Status” in the UK which provides workers with employment related rights but still ensures that the Labour Market retains flexibility.

Our view is that the EU has taken a blanket approach across all platform workers and has left little room for nuance. These regulations will help those workers who are working as delivery drivers and couriers and working in this industry due to a low choice or no choice of other employment opportunities.

It is widely known that these workers have due to their circumstance, not being offered minimum wage or are shoehorned into disguised self employment with little recourse to negotiate.

However, there is a large cohort of people who work through these platforms who are knowledge workers/highly skilled that have chosen to work in the gig economy as self-employed workers to benefit from increased independence and flexibility that it affords. Under this directive these workers will no longer be able to act as self-employed and will automatically be viewed as a worker. This creates unnecessary labour market rigidity.

In an interview with Julia Kermode founder of IWORK warned that while this directive will improve workers’ rights who currently are not afforded these, it will remove the option of self-employment from anyone who works through.

The Next steps

The Commission’s proposal for a Directive on improving working conditions in platform work will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council. Once adopted, Member States will have two years to transpose the Directive into national law.

The draft guidelines on the application of EU competition law will undergo an eight-week public consultation to gather feedback from stakeholders, after which they will be adopted by the Commission. The guidelines bind the Commission in its subsequent interpretation and enforcement of EU competition rules.

Interviews

Connor Heaney, Managing Director of CXC Global EMEA, spoke with three experts in relation to the new EU directive on improving platform workers rights. Joining Connor to speak about the effects that this directive will have on the platform industry was Julia Kermode, founder of IWORK, Lucas Stuurop, partner at Lexence and Michael Freytag, press officer at the World Employment Confederation.

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