21 October 2019

Ode to Legislation

IBA report urges governments to create legislation for on-demand workers as gig economy grows.

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A new report from the International Bar Association Global Employment Institute (IBA GEI) urges policymakers to create bespoke legislation for the de facto ‘third category’ of workers engaged in the on-demand economy (ODE) to provide them with greater protection and to boost innovation.

Report recommendations

Many ODE workers face a lack of legal protection or insecurity about their rights and obligations, which may lead to exploitation of workers by ODE companies, the report states. Titled “The On-Demand Economy”, the report recommends ODE workers receive holiday pay while retaining flexible working hours, minimum entitlements to employment protection and access to collective bargaining. Another recommendation is that discrimination laws cover ODE workers. Most jurisdictions currently only recognise two main categories of the employee and the self-employed or independent contractor, yet ODE workers do not fall into either category and consequently do not have the same rights. Chris Van Olmen, board member of the IBA GEI and co-coordinator of the report, states “We must address these issues and create an environment where different working styles are not only tolerated, but celebrated.” The On-Demand Economy report has contributions from national legal experts in 16 jurisdictions across the world, who provide insight into the current treatment of ODE workers in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Comparative analysis across the jurisdictions includes legal frameworks, discrimination and termination claims, health and safety problems, liability issues, social security and taxes.

“Need to reappraise”

Also known as the ‘gig economy’, the ‘platform economy’ or the ‘sharing economy’, the report defines the ODE as ‘economic activity created by technology or other companies or providers that fulfil consumer demand via the immediate and flexible provisioning of goods and services’. It is a topic that continues to be the subject of important legal debate that is tied to the future of work and how employment law can or should deal with new and hybrid forms of work. By claiming that they only make it possible for independent service providers and customers to connect with each other on their online platforms, ODE organisations often try to escape or minimise any legal responsibility. However, this approach does not perfectly fit in the legal systems of many countries. Co-coordinator of the report, George Waggott commented “To keep up with the increasing presence of the ODE model and the appetite of many organisations to engage ODE workers, almost all jurisdictions, including those that have already made a number of legislative changes, will need to reappraise their workplace laws and tax rules. The IBA GEI report is a contribution to the global debate of this relatively new phenomenon.” The report can be found here.

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