Germany’s Council presidency discusses the next steps and Germany wants to lead the way

Dr. S-W – 12/2020

On the 3rd December, an informal video conference between the European Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs was held under the chairmanship of Federal Minister of Labour, Hubertus Heil. One of the topics on the agenda was "Fair working conditions and social protection in the platform economy". The ministers were asked to comment on two questions against the background of the announcement of a relevant legal act by the EU Commission:

  1. What measures could best address the challenges of working conditions in the platform economy? Where are the priorities?
  2. What role should the EU play in this?

Several country representatives reported on specific measures in the past and plans for the future with the Spanish representative proposing the latter. Even though it was generally acknowledged that it is often problematic to designate the status of platform work as a dependent or self-employed form of employment, there was agreement that the creation of a new status specifically for platform work would not be ground-breaking. It is rather a matter of providing adequate protection to platform workers, regardless of status. Most of the country representatives (with the exception of Finland and Luxembourg) were not really convinced by the new European legislative initiatives; on the contrary, much is expected from the newly established European Labour Authority and from a European exchange of experience. 

European Parliament not inactive

The European Parliament has not been inactive and it is planning a draft report on "fair working conditions and social security for platform work" by January/February 2021 (rapporteur: Sylvie Brunet, Renew Europe, FR). The Employment and Social Committee held a hearing on the 30th November to prepare for this. There was agreement among the experts consulted that platform workers should be covered by the same level of social security as salaried workers. The representative from the food delivery service platform also supported an independent contribution by platform operators to the payment of taxes and social security contributions as long as this did not result in self-employed people becoming "employees".  It also confirmed the general view that the creation of a "third status" specifically for platform workers besides that of employee or self-employed is unhelpful. During the hearing, a social democratic MEP, Agnes Jongerius (NL) reported that the largest Dutch bank estimates the potential from platform work (as a result of the global restructuring of work) at up to 2 million euros, from a working population of 7 million.

The social affairs commissioner, Nicolas Schmit explained on several occasions that it is too early to give details of the proposed legislative initiative of the EU Commission on fair working and social conditions for platform work. The social partners will have to be consulted initially.

Benchmarks for fair work in the platform economy

Meanwhile, on the 27th November, Federal Labour Minister, Hubertus Heil presented "Benchmarks for fair work in the platform economy" in Germany.

According to this proposal, self-employed platform employees are to be included in the statutory pension insurance. Part of the contribution should be made by the platform operators. Platform contributions for health insurance will also be studied, as will accident insurance contributions. The minister also wishes to reverse the burden of proof to a certain extent in the case of platform work: The platform operator must provide contradictory evidence against any indications or allegations of the existence of an employment relationship. Solo self-employed platform workers should also receive such social benefits that are usually regulated under labour law: Continued payment of wages in the event of illness or maternity as well as holiday pay. The same applies to termination rules.