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New rules of work through digital platforms under way

The European parliament has approved the text of a directive on improving working conditions in platform work. The main aim of the directive is to improve the working conditions of platform workers, regulate the way platforms use algorithms, and prevent illegal employment. The directive is considered a breakthrough for the rights of digital platform workers in the EU.

More than 28 million people in the EU work for digital platforms, including taxi service providers, couriers, translators, and others. While the growth of these platforms has been beneficial for the labour market, it has created a grey area for their workers, particularly in terms of their employment status.

Although platform workers are often formally registered as self-employed, many are bound by the same obligations as employees but are not granted the same labour and social rights under EU law. Self-employment is therefore only formal – factually, it is an employment relationship between the platform and the worker.

Presumption of employment

The fundamental change brought by the directive is the introduction of a legal presumption of employment into the member states’ national law. This rebuttable legal presumption will apply if the relationship between the worker and the platform shows characteristics of control and management. Workers for digital platforms will be able to invoke this presumption, and it will be up to the digital platform to prove that there is no employment relationship. The directive thus represents a major step in fighting false self-employment schemes, in the Czech Republic also known as the Svarc system.

Regulating algorithmic management in platform work

Platform workers currently face a lack of transparency, in particular as regards decision-making and the use of their personal data. Automated processes overlook numerous factors that affect worker performance, such as traffic or obstacles on the part of customers. Digital platforms will now be obliged to properly inform their workers about the use of automated monitoring and decision-making systems, e.g., in the area of working conditions or remuneration. The directive will also introduce a ban on the use of algorithms in certain areas, such as the processing of workers’ biometric data or data on their psychological state. Workers will also have the right to the human monitoring of these algorithms, including the right to an explanation/consultation and a review of the decisions taken.

Once the final wording of the directive has gone through the EU legislative process, member states will have two years to implement it in their national laws. In this context, a question arises how the directive will affect the prices and availability of these types of services.