The proposed EU Directive on improving working conditions in platform work should broaden the legal presumption of ‘worker’ status by re-wording the indicators of control and clarify the criteria that platforms can use to rebut the presumption of employment. All workers should have access to social protection, regardless of their legal status. Provisions on algorithmic management should cover all workers subject to automated supervision, and not just those working in the platform economy, recommends the new report entitled “Back to What Truly Matters: Platforms, AI and youth in workplace”.
Over 28 million people in the EU work through digital labour platforms. Of these, an estimated 4.1 million work on-location, as opposed to performing work online, and are often referred to as “gig-workers”, who could be reclassified by the proposed directive from self-employed contractors to employees of the platform companies. This is important as many platform workers are currently misclassified as ‘self-employed’ in spite of working under the direct control of platform companies. Consequently, they miss out on EU labour and social protections.
The new report by Reshaping Work – an Amsterdam-based foundation – finds the proposed Directive could better address key issues in platform work such as unpredictable working hours and income or lack of social protection, whilst preserving the flexibility and autonomy of platform workers, often working concurrently for many different platform companies.
The proposed Directive will help by introducing a rebuttable presumption of ‘worker’ status based on indicators of control. This should be broadened, according to the report, by improving the proposed indicators of control so as not to hamper the application of the so-called ‘primacy of facts’ principle (the actual performance of the work and not the parties’ description of the relationship). However, the proposed Directive should also clarify the criteria that platforms can use to rebut that presumption.
The proposed Directive increases fairness, transparency, and accountability in the use of automated supervision and management of workers by providing enhanced algorithmic management rights to workers and the genuinely self-employed. However, it should also define what aspects of algorithmic management need to be explained and to what extent. This should also be followed up by the strengthening of labour inspectorates and data protection authorities to enforce the regulation.
By potentially recording movements, voice, and emotions, artificial intelligence (AI) risks breaching workers’ privacy. Designed on previous data patterns, AI can also reproduce and amplify pre-existing biases and discrimination. The report warns of low awareness of these risks and encourages workers to exercise their data protection (privacy) rights as envisioned by GDPR.
“We must take a step back from solely establishing employment status to ensuring decent standards of work, regardless of the employment relationship; from agreeing on the Directive to also implementing it; from AI causing issues to AI powering solutions; but also from safeguarding our bottom line today to getting more youth back into training, education, and employment”, says Jovana Karanovic, Reshaping Work Founder and Assistant Professor at Rotterdam School of Management. She adds: “For workers to enjoy decent working conditions, we first need to secure availability of good quality jobs – and that will be a challenge considering the current economic situation. This provides another justification for extending social protection to all workers – that would uphold European principles of solidarity but also show that we are ready to adapt to the new realities”.
The Reshaping Work report is unique as recommendations are derived from an extensive dialogue facilitated among 32 leading companies, startups, trade unions, academic researchers and other key stakeholders. Reshaping Work consolidated their views, highlighting points of agreement and disagreement as well as arriving at its own conclusions with the aim to inform and inspire policy discussions on the platform work directive, AI at work, and youth employment and workplace well-being.
Media contacts: Stevan Vujasinovic, Reshaping Work Communications Consultant, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Mob: +381 63 390 218 Jovana Karanovic, Report Editor, Reshaping Work Founder and Managing Director, Assistant Professor, Rotterdam School of Management, Email: email@example.com Mob: +31 62 895 9 800
About: Reshaping Work Dialogue is a Europe-wide initiative by the Reshaping Work Foundation that brings together companies, trade unions, start-ups, scale-ups, research institutes, and advocacy groups to explore and share ideas, solutions, and policy responses aimed at advancing welfare and well-being of workers and socially-responsible practices of companies. This year’s Dialogue report illuminates key challenges and policy recommendations in three specific areas: i) platform work directive ii) AI at the workplace and iii) youth employment and workplace well-being.