EU Opens Consultation On Gig Economy Worker Rights

The European Commission has signalled its intention to begin gathering views on the issue of employment rights for those operating in the ‘gig economy.’

The EC on Wednesday announced a public consultation to determine whether to propose a law that would give gig economy workers greater rights as contractors or employees, or by being allowed to bargain as a group.

It comes after a landmark ruling in the United Kingdom last week. The Supreme Court in London ruled that ride-hailing firm Uber now has to classify its drivers as workers, rather than self-employed or freelance people.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.  European Commission

Public consultation

That ruling ruling means tens of thousands of Uber drivers in the UK are now set to be entitled to minimum wage and even holiday pay.

The EC however this week launched the “first-stage consultation of European social partners on how to improve the working conditions for people working through digital labour platforms.”

The EC noted that the gig economy can offer increased flexibility, job opportunities and additional revenue, including for people who might find it more difficult to enter the traditional labour market.

But it said “certain types of platform work are also associated with precarious working conditions, reflected in the lack of transparency and predictability of contractual arrangements, health and safety challenges, and insufficient access to social protection.”

The EC said that the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation and the expansion of platform business models in the internal market.

For example the Covid-19 crisis has seen a surge in hiring of staff for food delivery companies.

Amazon has also hired heavily during the pandemic.

The Commission said it is seeking the views of European social partners on the need and direction of possible EU action to improve the working conditions in platform work.

Areas of focus

The consultation will be open for at least six weeks.

“The digital age opens up great opportunities for businesses, consumers and citizens,” noted Margrethe Vestager, executive VP for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age. “Platforms can help people to find new jobs and explore new business ideas. At the same time we must ensure that our European values are well integrated in the digital economy. We need to make sure that these new forms of work remain sustainable and fair.”

“In the midst of the digital transition, we cannot lose sight of the basic principles of our European social model,” added Nicolas Schmit, commissioner for jobs and social rights. “We should make the most of the job creating potential that comes with digital labour platforms, while ensuring dignity, respect and protection for the people that work through them. Social partners’ views on this will be key in finding a balanced initiative for platform work in the EU.”

It is understood that that the consultation singled out seven areas for possible improvement – the employment status of gig workers, their working conditions, access to social protection, access to collective representation and bargaining, cross-border aspects, the companies’ use of algorithmic management and training and professional opportunities.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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