In the wake of the Supreme Court judgment in the Uber litigation, the ILO and The European Commission are looking at ways to protect workers rights in a digitally driven gig economy.
Last month the Supreme Court ruled in Uber’s appeal against the lower courts’ decisions that its drivers were workers and, on the facts of the case, were entitled to be paid for their time when logged into the Uber app.
The case is likely to have far-reaching consequences for the gig economy, as well as in relation to the payment of VAT and the minimum wage.
The case comes when the issue has an increasing profile internationally and in the last few days the International Labour Organization has issued a report on digital platforms, and the European Commission has launched a consultation on protecting people working through platforms.
The report focuses on two main types of digital labour platform: online web-based platforms, where tasks are performed online and remotely by workers, and location-based platforms, where tasks are performed at a specified physical location by individuals, such as taxi drivers and delivery workers.
The ILO says that as digital labour platforms operate across multiple jurisdictions, international policy dialogue and coordination is needed to ensure regulatory certainty and the application of international labour standards. It calls for global social dialogue and regulatory cooperation between digital labour platforms, workers and governments, which could lead over time to a more effective and consistent approach towards a number of objectives to ensure that:
European Commission consultation
The European Commission has launched the first-stage consultation of European social partners on how to improve the working conditions for people working through digital labour platforms. The EU points out that platform work is developing rapidly in the EU across a growing number of business sectors. It can offer increased flexibility, job opportunities and additional revenue, including for people who might find it more difficult to enter the traditional labour market. However, 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. Additional challenges related to platform work include its cross-border dimension and the issue of algorithmic management.
The aim of the first-stage consultation of social partners is to invite the views of European social partners on the need and direction of possible EU action to improve the working conditions in platform work and it will be open for at least six weeks.
The Commission is asking the following questions:
Any action taken by the EU will be of interest to UK lawyers watching how the law on employment status may develop.