Consultation with the social partners: Commission launches the second phase

Dr. S-W – 06/2021

The EC had set itself the goal of improving the working conditions of platform workers by the time that President von der Leyen took office. Prior to this it intended to consult the social partners in a two-phase procedure. The first phase was completed on April 7.

The trade unions see further European initiatives quite positively, whereas the employers expressed themselves rather cautiously. On the basis of the responses received, the Commission concluded that there was a need for action to attain basic European-wide labour and social standards and launched the second phase on June 15 with the help of the C(2021) 4230 final consultation document. It seeks views on a number of issues, including the determining the employment status, access to social security, transparency of the algorithms being used and applicable law in cross-border cases. The question regarding the instrument is also raised here; as the choice would be between a directive or a recommendation. The aim of the Commission initiative is to guarantee adequate working conditions and social standards for platform workers.

A central problem on the path to adequate protection is determining the employment status. In general, the self-employed status is chosen so that an estimated 93% of all income from platform working is generated in this way. The risk of misclassification is high. Therefore, this initiative is intended to help clarify the platform working status. 

In doing so, the Commission respects the national competences in defining an "employee" - in line with the wishes of the social partners. In particular, it has no intention of creating a "third status" at EU level, somewhere between dependent employment and self-employed work. However, the initiative is intended as a guide to help member states arrive at the correct classification in each case.

The Commission presented several possible tools here, including:

  • a refutable presumption of the existence of an employment relationship in the event of platform working
  • an easily accessible (administrative) procedure for clarifying the employment status

It would be conclusive here to consider providing the bodies that will be deciding on the status in specific cases with a pan-Europe catalogue of criteria or indicators. The competences of the member states in distinguishing between dependent employment and self-employed work might be encroached upon, but this would depend on how binding such a catalogue and its components are.

In addition to employment status, the focus will be on dealing with information deficits in the event of platform working, which often crosses borders. It is estimated that one third of platform-based work within the EU is delivered across borders. Demanding more transparency from the platforms, whereby reporting obligations for statistical purposes are more likely to be envisaged, could also be considered.

The next step in this phase is to start negotiations between the social partners - the signs for which are somewhat bad - or having the Commission present a proposal by the end of 2021.