New forms of work
Harmonising flexibility, employment standards and employee protection.
SW – 01/2021
The European Foundation for the Improvement
of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) highlights in its “New forms of
employment 2020 update” study various atypical forms of employment, such as
ICT-based mobile working or platform working. It studies the policy frameworks
and incidences in the EU member states, Norway and the UK for each of these
"new" forms of employment and it also identifies the opportunities
and risks involved. It also ties in with its 2015 report "New forms of employment", in which it highlighted
new trends in the European labour market.
Distribution and influencing factors
According to the study, permanent full-time
standard employment is still predominant in Europe, but European labour markets
are becoming increasingly characterised by a variety of different forms of
employment. Further growth in the new forms of employment is now expected due
to the dual transition towards a digital society and a climate-neutral economy.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is also influencing the development of new
forms of employment. The example of ICT-based mobile working can be used to
track these various trends, such as the restriction of mobility due to the
pandemic, the "new normal", leading to switching between working from
home and at the employer's premises, increasing digitalisation and climate
change considerations as well as societal developments and preferences, e.g.
with regard to the work/life balance.
According to Eurofound, there is still a
lack of clarity in Europe regarding the concepts for the new forms of
employment. Available data and research results are still scarce and
discussions about the opportunities and risks involved from the employers'
point of view are rare. Most research and policy debates have focused on the
labour market and working conditions and on the issues related to the workplace
quality for employees. Information about the impact of atypical forms of
employment on social security systems, etc., is also scarce.
Despite the intensive discussions covering
the future of work at EU and national levels held in recent years, there is
still a lack of formal definitions and clarity in Europe regarding the concepts
of these forms of employment as well as the failure to create a regulatory
framework. However, a better understanding of the respective characteristics
and developments is now more important for sound policy making than it was a
few years ago.
Need for flexibility
Common to all new forms of employment is
the need for flexibility on the part of employers or customers, the employees
or even both sides. However, the different forms are not equally advantageous
for both sides. ICT-based mobile working, employee- and job-sharing are seen by
the researchers as having the greatest potential for a mutually beneficial
outcome, as in these forms flexibility would be accompanied by a good level of
employee protection in terms of working conditions, representation and social
protection. In contrast, the conditions, e.g. for platform and casual workers,
are worse when compared to standard employment.
Eurofound recommends that policy makers
focus on harmonising flexibility whilst maintaining employment standards and
employee protection. This will need differentiated and customised interventions
that take into account the specific opportunities and challenges involved in
each form of employment. Often, these would only be considered as an aggregate.
Nevertheless, such a uniform approach would be ineffective due to the diversity
of new forms of employment.
In this respect, the legislative act
announced by the EC in its 2021 work programme, which aims to contribute to the
improvement of working conditions and adequate social protection for platform
workers, should be interesting. With regard to forms of employment with
especially dynamic development, such as platform working, Eurofound does not
consider legislative initiatives alone to be effective and proposes
supplementing them with measures that could have a more rapid impact, such as
initiatives by the social partners.