Magazine ed*
ed* No. 03/2018

Legal or factual options

ed* No. 03/2018 – Chapter 4

cal compulsory insurance of self-employed persons, there is a de facto, or sometimes even legal, possibility of opting out. In Finland, it is compulsory for the self-employed to take out insurance in the statutory health and pension insurance schemes. However, this only applies if they carried out an activity as a self-employed person for more than four consecutive months in the previous year, a condition which is unlikely to be met by platform workers and which, in practice, often goes hand in hand with income not being registered in the social security system. Together with very high entry thresholds, this means that a large proportion of the self-employed are not protected against loss of income (due to old age, illness, unemployment).

The opt-out in Estonia has more legal certainty. Although self-employed persons are obliged to take out comprehensive insurance in the statutory system and pay a ‘social tax’ of 33 %, this is not necessary if a person only occasionally earns an income through self-employment. There is no legal definition for this; self-employed workers can decide for themselves if they belong to this category. This choice is particularly interesting for platform workers. In addition, the person concerned may choose to register themselves as an ‘entrepreneur’, that is, to found their own company. In this situation, self-employed persons can hire themselves (they then pay the 33 % social tax as well as contributions to statutory unemployment insurance) or they can decide against this and then they only have to pay income tax on their earnings (dividends).

Poland is also worth mentioning here. Although health, pension and accident insurance are mandatory for self-employed persons, they have the option – unlike dependent employees – to make a flatrate contribution of € 200 per month instead of income-related contributions. This option is taken up by nearly all self-employed persons. This naturally has an effect on their entitlements, for example, how much pension they receive after they retire.

Special rules for platform work

Recently, new sub-categories of self-employment have been created specifically for platform work, which in some cases have significant consequences for social protection. In Belgium, under certain conditions, platform workers – but not other self-employed workers – have to pass a considerable minimum threshold before they become insured.

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In France, platform workers must take out compulsory insurance in specific branches of social security, for example, statutory pension schemes. This even applies, under certain circumstances, to renting out private homes as temporary holiday accommodation via a platform such as Airbnb. The providers of this accommodation, and only they and not other platform workers or self-employed persons, may choose between the status as self-employed person or employee for the purposes of social security. Special rules for platform workers also apply to accident insurance. Like all other self-employed persons, they do not have access to statutory accident insurance, not even on a voluntary basis. They can, however, take out private accident insurance. In this case, the platform operator must bear the costs of the insurance if certain conditions are met. This is the case when the platform determines the terms and price of services, such as Uber or Deliveroo.