EU closer to adopting new regulations for the platform economy

Cecop says this is ‘a positive outcome for co-operatives engaged in platform work’

The European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee has endorsed an agreement on a new bill aiming to improve working conditions for platform workers.

Endorsed by MEPs and the European Council in February, the agreement on the Platform Work Directive was adopted with 37 votes in favour and three against.

The new rules aim to regulate the platform work sector in the EU while ensuring platform workers have their employment status classified correctly. Under these rules, platform workers would automatically be classified as in an employment relationship, as opposed to being self-employed, based on certain criteria, including national law, collective agreements and practices.

The rules also place the burden of proof on platforms, meaning that platforms wishing to contest the presumption of an employment relationship need to prove that the contractual relationship is not an employment relationship.

Under these rules, a person performing platform work cannot be fired or dismissed based on a decision taken by an algorithm or an automated decision-making system. This means that platforms must ensure human oversight on important decisions that directly affect the persons performing platform work. Platforms also need to inform workers and their representatives of how their algorithms work and how a worker’s behaviour affects decisions taken by automated systems.

“I am really proud of what we have achieved: a historic deal that will give platform workers dignity, protection and rights.” said rapporteur Elisabetta Gualmini (Socialists and Democrats, Italy). “It will also protect true self-employment, correct and prevent unfair competition, and introduce ground-breaking rules on algorithm management. The lobbying against the directive was extremely intense, but we delivered: Europe protects its citizens, its social model and its economy. Europe is a pioneer in labour law at the international level.”

The European Confederation of Industrial and Service Cooperatives (Cecop) welcomed the new rules but added they were less ambitious than the initial proposal submitted by the European Commission.

“This is mainly due to the amendments made to the determination of the employment status for persons performing platform work,” said Cecop in a statement. “The initial proposal of the European Commission sets five criteria that, if met, would trigger the presumption of employment status for platform workers. The newly voted agreement lets the definition of these criteria to national law, collective agreements and practices. This will undoubtedly weaken the effect of the Directive, allowing for discrepancies between the status of platform workers depending on the EU Member State. However, the agreement reverses the burden of proof of the employment status back to the platforms and provides better guidelines to ensure the protection of workers data. 

“Overall the agreement is a positive outcome for co-operatives engaged in platform work since it will remove some ambiguity and legal uncertainty and thus contribute to a more level playing field among platforms, especially for those providing higher social standards for workers, such as co-operatives.”

The agreement will be discussed in Parliament during the 22-25 April plenary session. If adopted by MEPs, it will go back to the European Council for formal adoption. Once adopted by the two institutions, EU member states will have two years to to incorporate the provisions of the directive into their national legislation.

Over 28 million people in the EU work in the gig economy, with the number expected to grow to 43 million by 2025.