Gig economy: how the EU improves platform workers’ rights

New EU rules aim to strengthen the rights of people working in the gig economy and ensure better working conditions.

More and more people buy goods and services online through platforms such as Deliveroo and Uber. People that offer their services through these platforms are often not protected by standard labour contracts, which makes them more vulnerable. The EU wants to change this with the EU platform workers directive.

What are gig economy workers? How many are there?

Online platforms use a website or an app to bring together people looking for a specific service with others willing to provide it in exchange for payment.

Most of the services such as driving, delivery or home cleaning require on-location work, but others can be done online such as accounting or graphic design.

43 million people

are expected to work for digital labour platforms by 2025

These non-standard jobs have become more prevalent due to changes in the world of work, such as increasing digitalisation and the creation of new business models. More than 28.3 million people were working for digital labour platforms in the EU in 2022 and this figure is expected to rise to 43 million by 2025.

Out of all people working for platforms, 26.3 million (93%) are currently classified as self-employed, but there are suspicions that around five million of those might be misclassified.

In the so-called gig economy, temporary positions and short-term contracts with independent workers are common. This puts workers in a weak position when dealing with the digital platforms. The EU wants to make sure such workers enjoy minimum protection.

The EU platform workers directive

In April 2024, Parliament voted in favour of new rules to improve the working conditions of gig economy workers. The EU platform workers directive aims to correct the employment status of those who have been misclassified as self-employed, improve transparency and regulate the use of algorithms and data in taking decisions about platform workers.

The new law aims to provide workers with all employment rights they should have and to correct bogus self-employment claims.

All EU countries will have to set up national rules to ensure that if there are indications that platforms exercise de facto direction and control over people working for them, these people will be assumed to have an employment relationship with the platform.

Platforms will be able to contest such a presumption, but they will have to provide proof that there is no employment relationship.

Under the new directive, a platform worker cannot be fired based on a decision taken by an algorithm or an automated decision making system. Human monitoring and supervision will be required for decisions affecting people’s working conditions.

Platforms will not be allowed to process certain types of personal data of those working for them, such as private exchanges with colleagues or personal beliefs. Platforms will be obliged to inform workers about the use of algorithms and automated systems in decisions regarding their recruitment, their working conditions and their earnings, among other things.

In 2019, MEPs adopted new rules introducing minimum rights for all employees. This legislation granted new rights for the most vulnerable employees on atypical contracts and in non-standard jobs, such as gig economy workers. The rules included measures to protect workers by ensuring more transparent and predictable working conditions, free mandatory training and limits on working hours and the length of the probationary period.

Next steps

Parliament approved the platform work directive in April 2024. The Council will need to approve it too.

Once both institutions have formally approved it, EU countries will have two years to bring their national legislation in line with the directive.

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