Platform Work in the European Union: Lessons Learned, Legal Developments and Challenges Ahead
23 Pages Posted: 5 May 2020 Last revised: 20 Apr 2021
Date Written: 2021
Platform work is a new form of employment that emerged over the last decade. In this form of work, digital infrastructure facilitates the matching between the demand and supply of specific services and organises their performance by means of guidelines, customer reviews, algorithmic governance and other mechanisms. The scale, pace and volume of this emerging phenomenon has added new impetus to discussions in several fields of law, including public, antitrust, tax and IT law. In the face of the concomitant trends that are reshaping the labour market (globalisation, tertiarisation, outsourcing and flexibilisation, to name but a few), the manifold challenges the digital transformation poses have also reignited heated disputes about such crucial issues as (i) the suitability of traditional methods for defining the legal status of workers; (ii) the allegedly narrow scope of the application of labour regulations; and (iii) whether existing labour and social security paradigms can adapt to changes in the labour market.
The overarching theme of this paper is to address possible policy gaps and further implications for EU labour law by exploring the lessons that can be drawn from recent policy and judicial developments. This study deliberately takes some central issues for granted for two main reasons. On the one hand, a selection of developments is necessary due to space constraints. On the other, numerous studies have refocused the crux of the discussion, have resolved some points of controversy and moved the debate forward. As a result, ongoing research can now focus on a pressing goal, namely the assessment of the regulatory suitability of existing social institutions, with the aim of providing realistic and effective solutions for all actors involved in the platform economy.
This paper is organised as follows. Aside from discussing the key lessons gleaned from previous studies on platform work, Section 2 briefly touches upon the trends and initiatives in policymaking in France and in Italy. Moreover, it presents and reviews the main outcomes of litigation at the domestic level, with a focus on the role played by algorithms. This section also assesses the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. After introducing the Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), Section 3 critically analyses two key achievements at the EU level, namely the Directive on transparent and predictable working conditions and the Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed. Section 4 assesses the elasticity of the triad of Directives regulating atypical employment. It is argued in this section that the narrow construction of the Directives’ personal scope of application represents an obstacle. An adaptive and purposive approach of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) could, however, result in the classification of platform workers as falling within the scope of the social acquis in some fields. Finally, Section 5 concludes by offering concrete proposals.
Keywords: platform work, digital transformation, European labour law, part-time, fixed term, temporary agency work, gig-economy
JEL Classification: K31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation