'POWERR Act': Bill calls for gig workers to be recognised as regular employees

This includes giving them minimum wage and enrolling them in social protection programmes

'POWERR Act': Bill calls for gig workers to be recognised as regular employees

A new bill filed in the Philippines calls for gig workers on online platforms to be recognised as regular employees and receive all normal worker protections. Senate Bill No. 1373, or the Protektadong Online Workers, Entrepreneurs, Riders, at Raketera (POWERR) Act, outlines a variety of measures that aim to protect the rights of the growing gig economy in the Philippines.

"This will guarantee that the rights of the delivery riders and online freelancers are protected. It will mandate the state to craft standards for regulations in relation to the services that these workers perform," said Senator Risa Hontiveros.

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Under the bill, the Department of Labour and Employment would issue rules ensuring that "online platform workers who would otherwise be classified as regular employees under Philippine law, are not misclassified as independent contractors, self-employed, or any other classification" outside the employer-employee relationship.

"Online platform workers shall be entitled to compensation not less than the minimum wage provided under Philippine law, computed on an hourly or per-task basis," the bill says.

The proposed legislation also seeks to ensure that online platform providers enrol their workers into the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, Social Security System, the Home Development Mutual Fund, as well as other social protection programmes. Providers should also be transparent in their algorithmic management systems and ensure that their workers are not put at risk while working.

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"Online Platform Providers shall be liable in the concept of an employer for injuries sustained by Online Platform Workers arising from the performance of above-described services," the bill says.

In filing the bill, Hontiveros explained that gig workers in the Philippines have struggled to access social protection programmes and other benefits guaranteed by law to regular employees because they are classified as independent contractors or self-employed.

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"Moreover, because work conditions in the gig economy are oftentimes precarious, workers in this sector are often adversely and disproportionately affected by economic shocks and the uncertain regulatory environment," she said.

The number of workers in the Philippines' gig economy boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the senator. The surge in workers brought $625million for the ride-hailing sector and $1.2billion in gross sales for food delivery businesses in 2020.

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