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On December 9, the European Commission proposed a set of measures to improve the working conditions of platform workers. The objective is to ensure that people working through digital labour platforms enjoy the labour rights and social benefits they are entitled to, and to provide additional protection as regards the use of algorithmic management. To this end, the Commission is putting forward a proposal for a Directive covering three main areas.

First, it seeks to ensure that people working through platforms are granted the legal employment status that corresponds to their actual work arrangements. To determine whether the platform is an employer, the Commission provided a list of five control criteria of which two are sufficient to legally presume employability. For those being reclassified as workers, this means access to labour and social rights such as collective bargaining, health protection and paid leave. Platforms will have the right to contest or ‘rebut’ this classification, but with the burden of proving that there is no employment relationship resting on them.

A recent analysis conducted by the ETUC has found that Europe’s biggest platform companies will fail the majority of the five tests, and would therefore be classed as employers.

Second, the Directive increases transparency in the use of algorithms by digital labour platforms, ensures human monitoring on their respect of working conditions and gives the right to contest automated decisions. These new rights will be granted to both workers and genuine self-employed. 

Finally, the Commission's proposal will bring more transparency around platforms. National authorities often struggle to access data on platforms and the people working through them, even more when they operate in several Member States. The Directive clarify existing obligations to declare work to national authorities and ask platforms to make key information available to national authorities. 

The Commission's proposal for a Directive will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council. Once adopted, Member States will have two years to transpose the Directive into national law.

The European Trade Union Confederation has welcomed the proposal of the Commission but regretted that the directive sets burdensome criteria to activate the presumption of employment. ETUC Confederal Secretary Ludovic Voet stressed that the upcoming negotiations should resolve this issue.

Most platform companies have expressed their displeasure at what has been published. Uber is concerned the Commission’s proposal would put ‘thousands of jobs at risk, crippling small businesses in the wake of the pandemic and damaging vital services that consumers across Europe rely on’.

By contrast, Just Eat advocated in favour of the initiative as it now employees its riders directly or through sub-contractors. ‘We hope that the Commission’s proposal will create clarity and a level playing field that ensures that companies across Europe are held to the same standards, so that all platform workers are treated with the dignity they deserve’, said Just Eat CEO Jitse Groen.

The Commission also launched a public consultation on draft guidelines clarifying the application of EU competition law to collective agreements of solo self-employed. These draft guidelines aim to make sure that EU competition law does not stand in the way of certain solo self-employed people's efforts to improve collectively their working conditions, including remuneration. The draft guidelines will undergo an eight-week public consultation to gather feedback from stakeholders, after which they will be adopted by the Commission.