Magazine ed*
ed* No. 03/2018

Platform workers in Europe – do they have social protection?

ed* No. 03/2018 – Chapter 3

form workers, it is usually possible to work out what this means for the worker in terms of social protection and contributions to be paid, unless there are special rules.

Once platform workers have been classified as self-employed, a colourful picture emerges in the European comparison. Noticeably, accident and unemployment insurance are often not part of the package.

Different degrees of protection – according to groups of countries

The countries with the most comprehensive coverage (sickness, pension and accident insurance, as well as compensation in the form of sickness and disability benefits) include Austria, Sweden and Poland, possibly also Hungary.

In other countries, health and pension insurance is mandatory, but not accident insurance. This is the case in Estonia, France, Switzerland, Slovakia and the Netherlands.

And finally, there are countries, noticeably Germany, where the social security of the self-employed is best described as a ‘patchwork quilt’. But even in the Netherlands, social security of the self-employed is patchy. Although they have obligatory protection as ‘insured citizens’ for the first statutory pillar of pension insurance, they are not protected by the second pillar, which is actually ‘quasi-mandatory’, but only for dependent employees. Most significantly, self-employed workers are not covered by the statutory social security systems which protect against the risk of disability and sickness-related loss of income (sickness benefits).

Different degrees of protection – according to types of insurance

Although pension insurance for the self-employed is by no means all encompassing across Europe, it is by and large obligatory.

The same cannot be said for statutory accident insurance. In countries where it does not exist, such as Estonia, employer liability comes into play again. However, this does not help a self-employed person. Even countries that have this branch of insurance struggle to include the self-employed. Among the countries surveyed, Sweden and Poland have come the fur-thest, with both dependent employees and self-employed workers covered by accident insurance.

©fotomek - stock.adobe.comPlatform workers looking for socialsecurity

At the other end of the scale are countries such as France, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Switzerland, where the self-employed are not compulsorily insured and do not even have voluntary access. However, it should be noted that in Switzerland, for example, Uber drivers are considered to be employees under social insurance law and are therefore compulsorily insured under statutory accident insurance. In France, on the other hand, Uber drivers do not have compulsory insurance but licensed taxi drivers who are self-employed are covered by compulsory insurance.

In between the two extremes are countries where, generally speaking, there is no compulsory insurance for the self-employed, but which allow voluntary access. These countries include Germany and Finland. Germany has a unique situation in that each of the accident insurance institutions can decide by statute which groups of self-employed persons they include in compulsory insurance. The German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the Transport Industry has made use of this possibility and included both ‘goods transport’ and ‘passenger transport’ in compulsory insurance. Thus, persons who work as Uber or Deliveroo drivers are also protected.