Proposals for the EU Directive on digital platform work

Tomas Mikalauskas

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 June, 2022 at 8:23 am by Andre Camilleri

Tomas Mikalauskas is Chief Executive Officer, RecruitGiant Limited

The challenges facing the digital platform industry in Malta and across the EU are now well known. The courier and taxi industries have been fully disrupted by mobile app-based platforms that offer convenient and efficient service to consumers but also being benefits to drivers who can adopt a work schedule of their choice. Of course, as I have frequently pointed out to the relevant authorities in Malta and in the media, the situation for those working in the digital platform economy is far from ideal.

I will not, at this stage, revisit the ongoing failures of the Maltese authorities, both within the Department of Industrial and Employment Relations and the Commissioner for Revenue to ensure those operating in this industry do so in compliance of the law. Perhaps, expecting these authorities to do the right thing is asking too much. Instead, I wish to highlight some suggestions which I will be forwarding to the EU’s Proposed Directive on improving working conditions in platform work. It is my sincere hope that through constructive dialogue, the EU will finally be able to create a legal framework that strengthens the positive aspects of digital platform work while ate the same time creating the safeguards need to protect workers’ rights.

The main objectives of the current Directive are:

  • to ensure that people working through digital platforms have – or can obtain – the correct employment status in light of their actual relationship with the platform and gain access to the applicable labour and social protection rights.
  • to ensure fairness, transparency and accountability in algorithmic management in the platform work context; and
  • to enhance transparency, traceability, and awareness of developments in platform work and improve enforcement of the applicable rules for all people working through platforms, including those operating across borders.

While the proposed EU Directive is very welcome, my concern is that its provisions will not go far enough when it comes to improving working conditions in platform work, particularly when it comes to tackling the issues of illegal or abusive employment and tax evasion. In fact, it is my firm belief that the current proposals will leave certain loopholes and even facilitate the growth of grey areas. With this in mind, the proposals I will be putting forward are:

  • Create an EU level regulatory framework which covers a broader scope than currently envisaged. It is vital that legislation takes into account certain definitions that are required at employment law level, to specifically cater for employment through digital platforms, namely, the definition of working time.
  • Ensure digital platform workers are properly classified with clear distinctions between workers and self-employed to guarantee that the implementation of such classifications does not in fact create more loopholes for platform operators.
  • Ensure that the relationship between digital platforms (such as Bolt and Wolt) and the chartered fleets which they use is also properly defined and regulated. Digital platforms must be responsible for ensuring that their contractors and any other third-party operators (legal entities) follow the regulatory guidelines and rules in the jurisdiction they operate in. To this effect it is important to highlight the importance of legislatively catering for the liability that may arise in the instance of a contractor/operator not abiding by industry standards.

As consumers we all enjoy the benefits of digital platform work. We also know that many of the people providing us with these services are being exploited. While I remain committed to ensuring that RecruitGiant, one of the largest fleet operators in Malta, continues to uphold all the current existing guidelines and regulations, I will not stop pushing to ensure that Maltese authorities act on irregularities which they know are occurring and to proactively support moves to improve the regulatory framework on digital platform work in Malta and the EU.

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