Protecting Workers in the Gig Economy

New legislation created by the European Parliament recently approved new rules to further protect those working in the gig economy. The gig economy is becoming more prevalent as a standard workplace where increasingly, organizations are seeking to hire individuals for specific pieces of work, or gigs. This method of hiring individuals can be very effective for an employer, especially if they are looking for a specific skill, but do not have the means or need to hire an employee for full time or long-term work. Additionally, the gig economy, previously called a sharing economy or collaborative economy, has created a new sector of fluid employees who are able to work wherever they want, and at whatever schedule suits them best. However, as great as this all sounds, gig workers must be careful to ensure that their rights are being protected and that they are not being exploited or abused by their employers.

Gig workers are everywhere and in addition to Uber drivers, numerous other professions are also caught up in the trend, including artists, musicians and performers who put on shows or work at events, or trade workers such as plumbers, carpenters and electricians. When thinking about these industries, we usually don’t pay mind to the process or how the workers are actually paid for their time and service. Because all Uber drivers are not employees of the company and AirBnB doesn’t actually own every single property they rent out.

The EU’s new laws are now offering protection, rights and more transparency for on-demand jobs (such as Uber and Lyft drivers). This will include a direct and essential listing of all of the job responsibilities. These laws will also include some form of compensation for work that is cancelled at the last minute. Following the guidelines of many medical services, if a service has not been cancelled prior to the stipulated cancellation deadline, then employees will still be paid for their time.

One final, and important, piece of this new legislation relates to the elimination of any exclusivity clauses. Realistically, if an individual wants to work more than the standard 40 hour work week, that is really their prerogative. That means that some people who are intrinsically motivated won’t be denied an opportunity to also work in the gig economy to supplement their current jobs. In addition, some people may want to drive for Uber, list their home on AirBnB, sell their crafts on Etsy and provide high-level education classes on Udemy. This new law in the EU will no longer prevent workers from dabbling in a variety of different gig economies.

It is possible that gig work can be mutually accommodating for both the employer and employee in the relationship. This set up can provide the employer with the specific product, knowledge or resources that they require and usually at a lower cost than hiring an employee. Additionally, this working relationship can be positive for the worker who is able to set their schedule flexibly. Ensuring that the relationships between gig workers and their employers remain positive and mutually beneficial is something that should be a goal for all organizations that hire gig workers.

With the increasing prevalence of work that can be done remotely and online through different agencies such as Etsy, Udemy and HelloTech, it appears that gig work is here to stay and the protection of gig workers will continue to be relevant for years to come.

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