EU Fixes Minimum Rights For ‘Gig Economy’ Workers

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Employment rights for gig workers

A new EU directive will see gig economy workers given more protections and workers’ rights in a bid to end "abusive practices" around casual contracts.

Approved by the European Parliament in April, the legislation could see companies required to provide gig workers with more predictable hours, compensation for cancelled work, and greater transparency. The European Parliament says the new laws will apply to expand protections for "the most vulnerable employees on atypical contracts and in non-standard jobs" – including those on zero-hour contracts.

Spanish MEP Enrique Calvet Chambon, who championed the proposals, heralded the directive as the first EU legislation to set minimum rights for workers in 20 years, saying:

“All workers who have been in limbo will now be granted minimum rights thanks to this directive. From now on no employer will be able to abuse the flexibility in the labour market.”

Member states will now have a maximum of three years to enforce the new rules, meaning that the UK will only need to implement the law if it is still a member of the EU in 2022. The UK is likely to follow suit nonetheless, with the government already having moved to introduce similar legislation at a national level late last year.

EU employment rights expanded

Employers in EU member states including the UK are already legally bound by a wide range of regulations regarding employees’ working hours, minimum breaks, and holiday entitlement. However, the emergence of the gig economy and its wealth of casual employees often working multiple jobs and flexible, erratic hours, has opened a loophole in the laws.

In a bid to improve transparency, employers in the EU will now be required to inform all workers about "essential aspects" of their employment on their first day. This includes a description of their duties, information on workers’ pay, and starting date and an explanation of a standard working day or reference hours.

In addition, employers will be bound to give workers compensation for work that is cancelled late and restricted to only one probationary period of a maximum of six months. Exclusivity clauses will be banned, meaning companies can no longer prevent workers from having other jobs.

The rules will apply to workers who work at least three hours a week on average per four weeks, as well as trainees and apprentices in similar circumstances. However, EU officials say the protections will not apply to those who are "genuinely self-employed" and work for themselves.

UK introduces own gig economy reforms

In the UK, the Taylor review of modern workplace practices conducted by Matthew Taylor led last year to the most sweeping workplace reforms in over two decades. Set to come into force in 2020, the changes increase the maximum fine for employers who treat their workers with "malice, spite or gross oversight” from £5,000 to £20,000.

In addition, they close a loophole which allowed businesses to pay agency staff less than permanent employees for the same work and require businesses to give workers a statement of their rights to sick and parental leave on the first day of their employment.

Employers will also be required to calculate holiday pay based on 52 weeks instead of 12 weeks, meaning that workers in "seasonal or atypical roles get the paid time off they are entitled to.”

Business Secretary Greg Clark heralded the legal reforms as a necessary step towards modernisation, noting:

“The world of work is changing, bringing new opportunities for innovative businesses and new business models to flourish, creating jobs across the country and boosting our economy”.

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