Platform work in Europe: Lessons learned, legal developments and challenges ahead

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Series Details Volume 13, Number 1, Pages 4-29
Publication Date March 2022
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Several years since first emerging in Europe, platform work continues to represent a ‘social dilemma’ for workers, social partners, policymakers and society as a whole. As a result of intense litigation, analysis and reporting, much is known about the contractual and working conditions in this growing labour market segment. While the European Union (EU) institutions are considering adopting a new Directive based on Art. 153 TFEU, there are a number of significant top-down and bottom-up national cases worth discussing. Workers across Europe have been reclassified by many courts; some governments have taken regulatory initiatives to address the risk of precariousness and have implemented new comprehensive legal instruments to safeguard a level playing field for both workers and platforms.

This article discusses how existing and new domestic and EU labour law provisions can improve the labour conditions of platform workers. Its overarching goal is to address possible policy gaps and the implications for EU social law by exploring the lessons that can be drawn from recent policies and legal developments.

Section two briefly touches upon the policymaking initiatives in France, Spain and Italy. Moreover, it presents and reviews the main outcomes of litigation at the domestic level, focusing on the pervasive role played by algorithmic management. After introducing the Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), section three critically analyses two key achievements at the EU level: the Directive on transparent and predictable working conditions and the Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed. Section four explores the elasticity of the triad of Directives that regulate atypical forms of employment (part-time, fixed-term and temporary agency work).

It is argued that the narrow construction of the Directives’ scope of application could represent an obstacle. However, an adaptive and purposive approach by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) could result in the classification of platform workers as falling within the scope of the social acquis in certain fields. Finally, section five concludes by providing concrete policy proposals focussed on cross-border issues, algorithmic transparency, the introduction of a presumption of employment status and collective bargaining.

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