European Gig Workers May Soon Be Classified as Employees

Employee status would grant benefits and protections to millions of gig economy workers.

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European gig workers—such as deliverers and drivers for Uber or Deliveroo—could soon be granted employee status, if some legislators get their way. 

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The European Commission has proposed new rules that would be tough on gig economy companies and pass certain expenses on to customers, while establishing certain protections for workers. According to the Commission, more than 28 million people in the EU work on digital labour platforms and that number is expected to balloon to 43 million by 2025. While most of them are self-employed, an estimated 5.5 million are incorrectly classified that way. Drivers, cleaners, couriers, masseuses, and other workers who use apps or other online platforms to conduct business would, under the new rules, be entitled to a minimum wage, holiday pay, health benefits, unemployment benefits, and legal protections. 

Per a press release, the goals of the new measures are to “improve the working conditions in platform work and to support the sustainable growth of digital labour platforms in the EU.”Workers are currently considered independent contractors and it will take several legislative steps before the new classification becomes law. The Commission put forward a communication setting out the EU approach and measures on platform work, a proposal for a directive on improving working conditions in such work and draft guidelines clarifying the application of EU competition law to collective agreements of self-employed workers seeking to improve their conditions on the job. 

In a statement, Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, said, “With more and more jobs created by digital labour platforms, we need to ensure decent working conditions for all those deriving their income from such work. Our proposal for a Directive will help false self-employed working for platforms to correctly determine their employment status and enjoy all the social rights that come with that. Genuine self-employed on platforms will be protected through enhanced legal certainty on their status and there will be new safeguards against the pitfalls of algorithmic management. This is an important step towards a more social digital economy.”

Nicolas Schmidt, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, added, “We must make the most of the job-creating potential of digital platforms. But we should also make sure that they are quality jobs, that don't promote precariousness, so people working through them have security and can plan for their future. The Commission's proposal sets clear criteria to establish whether a platform is an employer, and if so, their workers are entitled to certain social protection and labour rights. Technological progress must be fair and inclusive, which is why the proposal also addresses transparency and oversight of platforms' algorithms.”

The European Parliament and the Council will discuss the directive. If adopted, Member States will have two years to turn it into national law.