The European Commission wants labour regulations in future to be based on the assumption that workers for online ‘digital platforms’ are employees, and are not ‘falsely misclassified’ as self-employed, according to new proposals published this month.
This could result in millions of workers for so-called gig economy platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo receiving the same guarantees as employees on health and safety, sick pay and working hours, with knock-on benefits for road safety.
Research co-authored in 2018 by Heather Ward, co-chair of ETSC’s Road Safety Performance Index programme, found that gig economy workers faced a ‘perfect storm’ of risk factors on the road including inadequate training, a payment model that pressurised drivers to speed and to work while sick, no oversight of vehicle safety or condition and a lack of protective equipment.
ETSC was disappointed to note that none of the specific risks faced by platform workers in the transport sector are addressed explicitly in the proposals but says that the assumption of employee status could force platforms to address many risks by default, under existing legislation on issues such as working hours and occupational health and safety. However, much will depend on whether the companies operating in the sector attempt to circumvent the new requirements by ‘rebutting’ the presumption of employee status and on the willingness of EU Member States to enforce the rules.
There are some requirements for ‘human monitoring’ of ‘automated decision making’ in order to ‘evaluate’ risks – but ETSC would have liked to have seen, for example, specific rules to ban payment models that encourage speeding and reckless driving in the case of delivery drivers and riders.
The proposals from the Commission will now be debated by EU Member States and the European Parliament, and will likely face stiff opposition from industry and some governments, before becoming law.