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EU consults on use of digital labour platforms

Out-Law News | 08 Mar 2021 | 4:43 pm | 1 min. read

The EU Commission is consulting its trade unions and employers' organisations about measures it plans to improve the working conditions of 'crowdworkers', gig economy workers who access jobs through digital labour platforms.

The Commission's consultation of the European social partners will seek views on how conditions for gig workers can be improved.

Crowdworkers are people who accept work orders that are offered to an unspecified number of platform users (crowd) via a digital platform. Most crowdworkers are self-employed. Depending on the platform, the range of services offered extends from IT programming to domestic help.

Sarah Klachin, an employment law expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "As crowdworking becomes more popular in Europe it makes sense that regulations are put in place at a European level to maintain equal market opportunities and cross-border competitiveness within the EU." 

According to the EU Commission, platform work is developing rapidly and has become more important as a result of the Covid-19 crisis: without some of these platforms it would have been harder to ensure access to some services during lockdown, said the EU Commission.

"Crowdworking offers companies new opportunities to assign jobs quickly, flexibly and sorted according to specific skills without having to make a permanent commitment straight away," said Manfred Schmid, an employment law expert at Pinsent Masons. "However, the fields of activity as well as the business models of crowdworking platforms differ greatly. Depending on the model, risks of disguised employment can therefore arise - especially in Germany. This is not least due to a recent ruling of the German Federal Labour Court."

In the case of a crowdworker who regularly accepted work assignments via a crowdworking platform, the German court ruled in December that the crowdworker who filed the lawsuit at the time was an employee of the platform, even though the contractual basis existing between the platform and the crowdworker did not provide for this.

According to the EU Commission, crowdworking "can offer more flexibility, new employment opportunities and additional income opportunities - including for people who may find it difficult to access the traditional labour market." However, in certain types of platform work, the working conditions are precarious, the contractual agreements are not transparent and reliable enough, and there is a lack of safety, health protection and adequate social protection, the Commission said.

"Accordingly, the debate on crowdworking will continue and both crowdworking platforms and companies that use these platforms should follow it closely, as well as crowdworkers themselves," Klachin said.