On February 2nd, the European Parliament approved in its plenary session the initiation of interinstitutional negotiations on the proposal for a directive on improving working conditions in platform work. Therefore, the Parliament has set its position in order to start negotiations with the Council of the European Union. The text of the directive was negotiated in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, led by a colleague member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, and adopted in December 2022 in such Committee.
The Socialists in the European Parliament have ensured that the proposed Directive guarantees the autonomy, freedom and flexibility of the self-employed, with the introduction of the presumption of employment. With this measure, it is possible to combat misclassification by digital work platforms and that this classification is based on the actual working conditions, thus protecting workers from job insecurity and supporting good business practices, by combating unfair competition from platforms that use false self-employed workers.
In addition, Parliament has reversed the burden of proof: it will no longer be the workers who will have to prove that they are not self-employed; on the contrary, it will be the company that will have to prove that they are. It should be clarified that this reclassification is neither automatic nor general, given that companies have the right to refute the presumption of employment and prove that there is no employment relationship, providing evidence that they do not impose control and subordination criteria to platform workers such as salary, schedule, qualification systems, monitoring or supervision of the worker, rules on appearance or conduct, etc. The reclassification will only occur if the digital work platform cannot prove that the worker is self-employed. Thus, the Directive protects the true self-employed, who can remain self-employed; and the false self-employed who is actually an employee.
Another key achievement of the Directive is the regulation of algorithmic management. The agreement reached in the European Parliament ensures that workers will be informed about what the purpose of surveillance through algorithms is and how automated decision-making systems operate. The aim is to protect workers’ personal data and their use by the platforms, so that they are not used to discriminate against them, restrict their fundamental rights or adversely affect their working conditions, health and safety. To this end, the Parliament’s text ensures that workers’ representatives have a greater say in the deployment of automated artificial intelligence systems and in the assessment of their risks. In addition, decisions regarding hiring, dismissal, health, safety at work, or other decisions of importance for the worker’s working conditions may not be taken by these automated systems, but exclusively by people in charge of the company.
While the Parliament has already adopted its position, the Council is now starting its negotiations to adopt its own and reach an agreement among the 27 Member States. These negotiations are expected to be difficult because only a minority of Member States – those currently governed by the left, such as Spain or Portugal – support the content of the Parliament’s Directive. Once the Council has agreed on its position, negotiations can begin between the Council and the European Parliament, the result of which will be the Directive that the Member States will have to implement in their national legal systems. Thus, due to the reluctance of a large majority of the remaining Member States around this Directive, we are likely to see its approval only in 2024.
During this period, the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union will be key to maintain the progress achieved in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, as well as to speed up negotiations and ensure that the Directive is approved before the end of this legislature. The Socialist Government in Spain has been a pioneer with its “Rider Law” of 2021, and with the same ambition and determination, we must support and advance a strong European Directive that protects digital platform workers, guaranteeing access to social and labour rights throughout the Union, thus respecting our European Social Model.