EU agrees to 'revolutionary' directive to improve gig workers' conditions

New directive sets out rules on employment relationships, use of AI, algorithmic management

EU agrees to 'revolutionary' directive to improve gig workers' conditions

Regulators from the European Union have agreed to a "revolutionary" agreement that aims to improve the conditions of digital platform workers.

Negotiators from the European Parliament and Council reached the provisional agreement last week over a bill that covers the first-ever EU rules on algorithmic management in the workplace, presumption of an employment relationship, and the use of artificial intelligence, among others.

"This is a revolutionary agreement and the first legislative framework for digital platform workers. We have transparency and accountability for algorithms, we have better rights for the least protected workers in the world, and we have fair competition for platforms," said Elisabetta Gualmini, member of the European Parliament, in a statement.

Presumption of employment

Under the new Platform Work Directive, the EU introduces a presumption of an employment relationship that is triggered when two out of five indicators of control or direction are present.

"The presumption can be triggered by the worker, by their representatives, and by the competent authorities on their own initiative," the EU Parliament said in a media release. "This presumption can be rebutted if the platform proves that the contractual relationship is not an employment relationship."

This comes amid major employment disputes across the world on whether gig workers should be classified as employees or self-employed.

Across EU countries, there have been more than 500 court judgments that dealt with the platform workers' employment status, where most rulings reclassify independent contractors as workers and "gig" platforms as employers.

But EU said there are at least 5.5 million persons doing platform work who may still be wrongly classified as self-employed, which meant they are missing out on important labour and social protection rights.

Transparency, human oversight

The rules also expand how much information workers and their representatives get when it comes to how algorithms affect their work, according to the EU.

Under the rules, workers and their representatives should also have access to information over how their behaviour affects decisions made by automated systems.

In relation to automation, the rules also prohibit platforms from dismissing or suspending gig workers without human oversight.

"Platforms will be also obliged to assess the impact of decisions taken or supported by automated monitoring and decision-making systems on working conditions, health and safety, and fundamental rights," the EU said in its statement.

The new rules will need to be formally adopted by both Parliament and Council to enter into force. Member states will have two years to incorporate the directive into national law.

The change is expected to affect more than 20 million people in EU who are offering services to digital labour platforms.

According to an analysis from the European Commission, this number is expected to grow to 43 million by 2025.

"Today, we can say to 40 million platform workers that Europe is there for them, also for the most precarious workers," Gualmini said. "I am honoured to have been in charge of this revolutionary change."

As reported in HRD Canada, Canada has also been implementing similar laws to protect rights of Canadian online platform workers.

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