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EU finally strikes a deal on the Platform Work Directive: What will it change for young people on the job?


After more than 830 days of twists and turns, a final agreement on the Platform Work Directive has been reached. This time it’s for real (no joke) as a small number of member states changed their mind and voted in favour, which was enough to pass the law once and for all. All this without the backing of both France and Germany who seemed determined to block the law until the very end. Luckily, they didn’t manage!

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Alex Q t
Alex Quinn

Putting the politics aside, it’s important to understand the significance of this new law for the 28 million platform workers across the EU. Until now, they've been working in some of the most unfair conditions out there, lacking basic rights such as holiday pay, sick pay, parental leave, minimum wages, and restrictions on working hours. Additionally, they've had to deal with threatening algorithms that can fire them on the spot, showing a lack of respect for these workers. This needs to change, and the new EU law sends a strong message: platform workers deserve better. It’s taken a while to get there, but better late than never.

So, what will the new legislation actually change for platform workers in their everyday work?

the wins: an end to robo-firing

This legislation targets those troublesome algorithms and automated management systems. To give a bit of context, platform workers are allocated tasks and shifts not by a person, but by an automated system (think of it as sort of a robot boss). Far from being just a neutral backdrop to their work, these automated systems have considerable control over platform workers. They determine the speed at which a task should be done, pay-rates, and the amount of work allocated to a worker. They rate performance levels and often dismiss workers without reason or notice.

Ok Ok, but what will the new legislation do about it?

It obliges platform companies to provide the worker and their representatives (i.e trade unions) a right to know what automated systems are used, what information is collected, how decisions are made on their work, and how their work is evaluated. All of this - up until now - has been a blindspot for platform workers, leaving little room for addressing the issue. If you don’t know, you can’t act. Platform companies will also be prohibited from firing and dismissing workers based on a decision taken by an algorithm or automated decision making system (hooray - we all hated that robot anyway).

employed or self-employed?

The other big aspect underpinning this legislation revolved around a simple, yet decisive question: are platform workers to be regarded as employed or self-employed? Platform companies have an interest in stating that the workers are self-employed and not employees; What does this mean? They can overlook the additional costs of ensuring workers the fundamental rights they are entitled to. But are you really self-employed when you have little control over your working hours, how you deliver a service and what you charge?

good, but not great

Despite the great hope - the new EU legislation fails to achieve a harmonised way, applicable to all member states, to effectively determine the correct employment status of platform workers. Instead, it asks member states to come up with their own way of doing it. In simple terms, this means that member states who have until now taken little action to get the employment status of platform workers right can continue to do so. This is a pity as it undermines the original purpose set out by the European Commission.

Is it really that bad!? Not entirely. The legislation does state that when a labour inspectorate/ national authority deems that a platform worker is in fact an employee (not self-employed), it will now be up to the platform companies to take the case to court to prove otherwise and not the worker. This takes a big weight off the shoulders of platform workers who are often lacking the time, resources and the energy needed to carry out lengthy court cases.

the fight is far from over

In five years from now we hope to look back on this moment and say that the EU Directive achieved what it set out to do: to ensure that platform workers are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve! To get there, it’s crucial that member states listen to the voices of platform workers and make sure that the directive is implemented and enforced as soon as possible.

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