EU to strengthen protection for Uber and other internet platform workers

Over 28 million people in the EU work for internet platforms such as Uber, Wolt and Dáme jídlo. It is estimated that by 2025 this number could increase to 43 million. Internet platform workers are mostly hired as self-employed persons, although they in fact are employees. In response to the growing importance of new forms of employment, the European Commission has put forward a proposal for a directive to ensure the greater protection for internet platform workers.

The draft directive aiming to improve working conditions of those working through platforms includes guidance on determining whether a worker is actually an employee. At the same time, it provides for the rebuttable presumption that if a worker performs activities through an internet platform and the platform can control the worker's performance, the worker is considered an employee. In such a case, the worker is entitled to the same level of protection as 'ordinary' employees, whether financial (e.g., entitlement to minimum wage, unemployment benefits or wage compensation for temporary incapacity to work) or non-financial (working time arrangements, OSH, etc.). Online platforms that claim that a worker is not their employee will then have to prove that no (even de facto) employment relationship exists between them. The burden of proof will therefore lie solely with them.

The directive also responds to the fact that in practice, internet platforms are replacing managerial decisions with computer algorithms (so-called algorithmic management). To enhance worker protection, the directive makes regular human supervision of these automated systems and their decision-making mandatory and gives workers (both employees and self-employed) the possibility to challenge these decisions.

Since internet platforms often operate in more than one EU member state, it is hard to determine when, by whom and for whom work is performed. Hence, the directive orders them to inform the national authorities about the performance of their activities and about the persons who work for them.

The new rules should thus increase the legal certainty and protection for those carrying out such innovative forms of work, and in many respects also make it more difficult for online platforms to circumvent legislation on, e.g., labour-law, tax, social and food safety issues.

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