Improving working conditions in platform work: our response to the European Commission proposals

Today, the 9th December, the European Commission announced proposals to improve working conditions in platform work and, at the same time, support the opportunities, innovation and flexibility that the platform economy brings. The proposals are focused on four important topics: employment status, algorithmic management, enforcement and traceability, and collective bargaining and social dialogue. Below is Collective Benefits’ response to these important proposals.
Anthony Beilin
Anthony Beilin
Chief Executive and Co-Founder
Collective Benefits
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We believe that all workers in the platform economy should have access to baseline protections -- from day one, shift one, task one -- and that this should be paid for by the platforms through which they work. 

This baseline is needed to protect workers from the risks that occur during work, or that result from the nature of work in the platform economy. We believe this should include (at a minimum) income protection for accident, injury and disability and public liability insurance. 

Because these needs do not vary by employment status, we believe they should be made available to all workers in the platform economy.

Given this, we welcome that today’s proposals from the European Commission (the EC) provide clarity that providing necessary benefits and protections to independent workers should not be used as an argument for a change to employment status.

We also believe the proposals give: 

  • A clearer definition of employment status, and how it is applied and adjudicated, that passes the important test that the people most affected - workers themselves - can understand it. 

If effectively implemented at a country level, this would provide the clarity that platforms and workers have long sought. 

  • A welcome acknowledgement that flexibility over when, where and how to work is a non-negotiable aspect of independent work. 
  • Recognition of the value of the platform economy (to workers, consumers and the economy) and of the social protections that are an integral part of quality work.

Through our own research -- and our partnerships with pioneering platforms, who didn’t wait for legislation to put benefits and protections in place -- we also know that independent, flexible, work is what workers want. 

For example, we asked 1,000 platform economy workers in the UK why they choose to work through the platform that they do. The most cited reason (44% of responses) was flexibility over working hours, time or location. Other studies, including in the EU, make the same point.

The flexibility and inclusivity of platform work allows many (who wouldn’t otherwise be able) to participate in the economy, to fit work around their family and social commitments, and to top-up their incomes. Legitimate questions remain about the extent to which the EC proposals would restrict the availability of an important source of earnings.

However, our work at Collective Benefits has shown that it is possible to strengthen independent work while preserving flexibility. We now partner with over 45 pioneering platforms (as a result, supporting over 250,000 members worldwide) to access benefits and protections that are designed around the needs of platform workers. 

We stand ready to support platforms to do more, for all variations of employment statuses of the workers who use their apps. For example, through widening the well-being support they offer to include smart crash detection technologies, accessible education and learning, community building or mental and physical health support.  

Enhancing worker well-being in the platform economy is why Collective Benefits was created. We’ve always believed that this can, and should, be done. Overall, today’s proposals from the EC offer the missing clarity that will allow us to protect more workers, in more ways.

December 9, 2021
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