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Jessica Vaculíková | March 26, 2024

New rules to improve working conditions for platform workers

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The European Union is once again one step closer to adopting the Platform Work Directive. In the first half of March, EU ministers for employment and social affairs confirmed a preliminary agreement on the Platform Work Directive. The aim of the forthcoming directive is to improve the working conditions of platform workers and regulate the way digital work platforms use algorithms.

One of the reasons why the need for regulation of this sector has arisen is certainly the rapid growth of digital platforms, which, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, have significantly expanded their field of activity. Working through digital platforms, whether they are platforms providing similar services such as taxi, delivery or delivery services, has become commonplace. The ever-growing digital platform economy now employs more than 28 million people. Such a group of people is not negligible and, on the contrary, can be expected to grow further in the future. It is therefore more than high time to adopt more comprehensive legislation in this area.

The main element of the entire proposal is the rebuttable legal presumption of the existence of an employment relationship, where the digital platform has control over certain elements of the worker’s performance. In other words, when facts indicating control and direction by the digital platform over the worker are established, the legal presumption of an employment relationship between the parties in question applies. It is up to the digital platform to prove that this is not an employment relationship. As this is a directive, it will be up to the individual Member States to establish a framework, through which this legal presumption can be applied.

The anchoring of the rebuttable legal presumption reflects particularly the original purpose and setup of digital platforms. The original purpose of the platforms was to connect the customer with the provider of a particular service, i.e. a self-employed person.

However, once the operator of the digital platform takes over some degree of control over the service provider himself and decides, for example, about his working hours or imposes requirements on certain ways of providing the service, the platform operator effectively becomes an employer who assigns work to the service provider as its employee. In such a case, this is therefore only seemingly self-employment. It is de facto an employment relationship between the platform and the worker. The EU therefore wants to prevent disguised employment and bring the working conditions of platform workers closer to the rights of traditional employees.

The preliminary agreement on the Directive also foresees regulation of the conditions for the use of algorithms in the context of working via the platform. The aim is to ensure greater transparency and worker protection by requiring platform operators to inform workers about the use of automated monitoring and decision-making systems, for example in the areas of recruitment, working conditions and earnings.

Another gem for greater transparency will probably be the complete exclusion of certain personal data of employees from processing, such as biometric data or data on their emotional or psychological state. In general, there will also be human supervision and evaluation of automated decision-making processes, which will then enable obtaining an explanation of a particular decision and, where appropriate, the initiation of a review.

However, the entire process of adopting the rules outlined in the ministerial agreement is still at an early stage. The draft directive must first be formally approved by the European Parliament and then it will be up to the individual Member States to decide how to implement the new regulation into their legal systems. Member States, including the Czech Republic, will have two years from the adoption of the directive to do so.