MEPs demand equal rights for gig workers on digital platforms

17 Sep 2021

Image: © franz12/Stock.adobe.com

The EU is committed to reforming working conditions in the gig economy and wants to see companies take responsibility for health and safety, and algorithm transparency.

Members of the European Parliament have proposed updates to the European legislative framework to address the new realities of the gig economy.

In a resolution adopted on Thursday (16 September) with 524 votes in favour, MEPs called for gig workers on digital platforms to be given the same rights as traditional employees.

What the MEPs describe as ‘digital labour platforms’ includes tech-driven food delivery services such as Deliveroo, transport services such as Uber, and odd job services with similar platforms.

Companies operating in the gig economy have typically opted to class these workers as self-employed. But MEPs say this has deprived gig workers access to social protection and adequate labour rights.

‘We say yes to digital, but not at the expense of working rights’
– SYLVIE BRUNET

The European Parliament proposes to reverse the burden of proof so that, in the case of legal proceedings, gig workers should not be considered self-employed unless companies can prove there is no employment relationship.

This proposal also allows for those who wish be self-employed to remain so.

“Today, Parliament is taking another step towards protecting platform workers,” said French MEP Sylvie Brunet.

“Better access to social protection, improved working conditions, access to collective representation for the self-employed, clarification of their status, and the use of ethical algorithmic management are all issues that urgently need to be addressed at European level,” she added. “We say yes to digital, but not at the expense of working rights.”

What MEPs are proposing will extend gig workers’ entitlements to include social security contributions and the right to negotiate for better terms and conditions. It also demands that gig economy employers to take responsibility for health and safety.

This includes equipping gig workers with adequate personal protective equipment and ensuring those working in transportation and delivery have accident insurance.

MEPs are also tackling the algorithms that govern the working lives of gig workers. They insist that algorithms driving task assignment, ratings, pricing and deactivation procedures should be explainable, transparent, non-discriminatory and ethical.

Gig workers should also have the option to challenge decisions made by algorithms and human oversight must always be part of the process.

Previously, the European Commission committed to improve the working conditions of gig workers by the end of this year.

Legislators around the world have been working to formalise the employment status of gig workers.

Earlier this year, Uber lost a UK court battle on how it classifies its drivers. In February, the UK supreme court ruled that its drivers should be classified as workers and not independent contractors.

This month, a Dutch judge ruled the same in what was declared as a huge win for drivers’ rights.

US labour secretary Marty Walsh, who is expected to effect major changes to US workplace regulations, has also shown support for the classification of gig workers as employees.

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Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com