28th Feb 2024

EU agrees less ambitious rules on platform work

  • If formally approved, the directive will also create the first EU rules on algorithmic management and the use of AI in the workplace (Photo: Unsplash)
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Platform workers in the EU such as taxi drivers, domestic workers and food delivery drivers are a step closer to better working conditions, after a new provisional agreement was reached under the Belgian EU presidency on Thursday (8 January).

The directive was originally proposed by the EU commission in December 2021, and a first provisional agreement was reached two years later — a deal that soon fell apart due to internal divisions in the Council over the reclassification of workers as "employees".

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The EU executive originally estimated that 5.5 million out of 28 million platform workers were misclassified as self-employed when they should in fact be employees — a legal definition that would give them access to new rights and social protection.

The chapter on the status of these gig workers has been the most difficult aspect to agree on among the co-legislators from the beginning, to the extent that the European Parliament has significantly shifted its demands in order to reach this second (and most likely final) provisional agreement.

The current text does not include a list of criteria or indicators to trigger the legal presumption of employment, which means that there will be no harmonised conditions across member states to reclassify a platform worker as an 'employee' — as proposed by the commission.

The decision to reclassify a worker would be taken at national level, following national law and collective agreements, and taking into account the case law of the European Court of Justice.

Under this new scenario, EU countries would have to introduce a rebuttable presumption into their national law, which would aim to facilitate the reclassification process for gig workers and maintain the burden of proof on platforms in case they want to prove otherwise.

It will also be up to member states to determine what facts indicate control and direction in order to trigger the legal presumption.

The provisional agreement still needs to be formally approved by the parliament and the member states, but for the delegation of France Insoumise (The Left) in the parliament, the text is "far from the initial ambitions of the parliament".

"This agreement is far from revolutionary, but at least it will not worsen the situation of workers, as the 'Uber-Macron' duo wanted," they said.

If formally approved, the directive will also create the first EU rules on algorithmic management and the use of AI in the workplace — ensuring human oversight of key decisions that directly affect workers.

"More transparency and accountability for algorithms and more protection of data for platform workers should become a real benchmark at global level," leading MEP Elisabetta Gualmini, from the Socialists and Democrats group, said.

On the lobbyists' side, the industry group representing Bolt and Uber, Move EU, described the text as "vague" and believes this directive, as it is, would lead to uncertainty for national systems and professional drivers.

"[The provisional agreement] is a rushed process to agree to any directive at any price, despite the lack of support from many member states," its chair, Aurélien Pozzana, said.

Member states received the text on Friday (9 February) and will now have time to study it before the final vote scheduled for next week, most likely on Friday (16 February), when the lobbying group is calling on delegations to reject the deal "as it greatly departs from any approach approved by the Council".

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