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22 Feb 2023

Aude Cefaliello, European Trade Union Institute for Social Europe

Europe: Failure to presume employment relationships for gig workers would allow platforms to "exploit workers"

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"Platforms and their presumptions," 22 Feb 2023

…The European Commission proposes in [the currently-debated directive on working conditions in platform work] the presumption of an employment relationship. According to the companies, that does not respect the work of the self-employed. But what will change in practice, for employees or platforms?

In [one scenario], a platform hires all its workers on the basis of an employment contract, which would penalise those who are ‘truly self-employed’. The platform is presumed to be the employer of all workers who have employee status. Labour law applies, as do additional obligations…

The ‘truly self-employed’ who refuse to be treated in this manner will have to go to court to challenge their employee status...

In the second scenario, a platform hires all its workers on the basis of a service contract, which would penalise the ‘falsely self-employed’. The platform does not have employer status and all its workers are treated as self-employed. They are thus obliged to pay their own taxes and responsible for their own health and safety—the platform is not required to provide safety equipment or anticipate the risks workers may face while providing services…

The presumption of an employment relationship would not end self-employment; rather, it would end impunity for platforms. Requiring platforms to demonstrate that they do not treat workers as employees would force them (finally) to be transparent and take responsibility for the way they organise work—to face, in other words, their legal and social obligations.