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ILO wants better regulation to help algorithm dependent gig economy workers

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  • The Geneva-based body’s call comes just days after Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that Uber Technologies Inc. must treat its drivers as “workers”

Posted by Ayshee BhaduriBloomberg

UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2021 09:11 PM IST

The International Labor Organization (ILO) urged better regulatory cooperation among countries to protect workers in the digital economy, saying the distinction between employees and the self-employed is increasingly becoming blurred.

“Working conditions are largely regulated by the platforms’ terms of service agreements, which are often unilaterally determined,” the ILO said. “Algorithms are increasingly replacing humans in allocating and evaluating work, and administering and monitoring workers.”

The Geneva-based body’s call comes just days after Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that Uber Technologies Inc. must treat its drivers as “workers,” giving them access to vacation pay, rest breaks and minimum wage. The decision opens the way for additional claims from people providing their services to other platforms, and European officials are poised to modify the rules.

In Spain, the government is already preparing strict labor law changes that could mean food-delivery platforms have to formally employ the couriers they rely on.

“The challenges for platform workers relate to the regularity of work and income, the lack of access to social protection, freedom of association and collective bargaining rights,” the ILO said. “Working hours can often be long and unpredictable.”

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Postal workers union in Canada announces gig worker unionization effort

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February 26, 2021

On Thursday, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers announced a “Gig Workers United” union campaign for Toronto delivery workers whose work is controlled by apps.

“The way it is just can’t continue — if the gig economy is going to work for our society than it can’t be based on squeezing delivery workers and restaurants for profit, and dodging our labor standards,” courier spokesperson Narada Kiondo said.

Its effort is rooted in an effort where delivery independent contractors for Foodora voted to unionize, although the company left Canada last year.

“The couriers have shown that traditional union organizing is possible in this space. But they’ve gone farther than that, with community-organizing tactics and collective mutual aid,” CUPW National President Jan Simpson said. “They’ve formed a worker-led organization that we’re proud to support because their fresh energy and ideas are what it takes to improve working conditions and reject Silicon Valley’s model of exploitation.”

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Government has no plans to create new employment status for gig workers

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The Government has “no plans” to introduce a new category of employment for workers in the gig economy, which would extend to them the same rights as those of staff in more secure forms of employment, Minister of State for Trade Promotion Robert Troy has said.

Mr Troy was speaking in the Seanad on Friday, days after a landmark ruling against Uber by the UK supreme court, which said the ride hailing app’s employees were workers rather than being self-employed.

Fianna Fáil senator Mary Fitzpatrick said Deliveroo riders and those working for similar delivery companies had provided a “vital and essential service” to the public during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Because they are in this no-man’s-land, they have no employment rights, no insurance cover if they are robbed, mugged, or in any way injured during the time they are carrying out their work,” she said.

Fine Gael senator Mary Seery Kearney said the UK ruling would lead to a “hybrid” category of employment “that marries the gig economy type flexible model of self-employed with basic employment rights”, adding: “We don’t have that category here.”

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In response, Mr Troy said the Department of Social Protection was “revising and updating” the code of practice for determining the employment and self-employment status of individuals to reflect new working models.

“Ireland has a robust suite of employment rights that protects all employees equally,” he said. “All employers carry the same obligation when it comes to the compliance with employment rights.

“Ireland has always resisted the creation of sub-categories of employment as this would inevitably lead to a race to the bottom where hard won employment rights are gradually eroded. Therefore, the Government has no plan to create a third category of employment.

“It’s not clear under what criteria a person would be deemed to fall into this third category of employment where they would be neither an employee or self-employed.

“We would essentially be creating a lesser category of employee who we acknowledge is not self-employed, but to whom we would not afford the full suite of employment rights to which they are currently entitled.”

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Employment Law Coffee Break | Neurodiversity; gig economy; roadmap out of lockdown 3 and our pensions spotlight for February

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Welcome to our Employment Law Coffee Break in which we highlight the latest developments and issues impacting UK employers

Neurodiversity: Creating inclusivity in your workplace

This week Danielle Kingdon, employment partner, speaks with Nancy Doyle, CEO of Genius Within to provide a practical introduction to neurodiversity and the considerations for employers seeking to attract, retain and support neurodiverse talent.  For many employers their understanding of neurodiversity is just developing and this podcast provides a timely and practical outline.

What did the Supreme Court say in the Uber case?

The Supreme Court has handed down its decision in the long running “Uber” case. The decision inevitably has attracted much media attention with there being wider ranging implications for businesses operating on a platform model.  The decision highlights the need for organisations to understand the employment status of those working for them, together with workplace tax implications. This April sees reforms to IR35 rules in the private sector; given that the test of whether IR35 applies is an employment status test, this decision that the drivers were workers for employment purposes could also have implications for any IR35 status and will be relevant to any determinations carried out in relation to this. We look here at the Supreme Court’s decision and set out here our six practical takeaways for businesses.

If you would like any further assistance in this area and the implications of the new IR35 rules on your contingent workforce, please do contact our specialist workforce solutions team. Kevin Barrow will be discussing the traps in the regime as part of our Eating Compliance for Breakfast series of webinars; please register here.

Roadmap out of lockdown 3: Considerations for employers

The Prime Minister set out on 22 February a four step roadmap to “cautiously” ease lockdown restrictions in England. However, as previously, nothing is set in stone with each step to be assessed against specifc tests – centred on the vaccination programme, pressure on the NHS and any new variants of concern – to keep infection rates under control before restrictions are eased.  Separate measures to ease lockdown are being introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We now wait for further guidance but please read here for the immediate considerations for employers. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has also confirmed that companies who are required to do so should report their gender pay gap by the 4 April 2021 but it will not bring enforcement proceedings until 4 October 2021.

We are hosting a webinar on 3 March which looks at vaccination considerations for employers. Please register here.

Pensions spotlight for February: Climate risk governance and reporting

The Department for Work and Pensions is consulting on draft regulations and statutory guidance which will introduce climate risk governance and reporting duties for the trustees of trust-based (occupational) pension schemes from October 2021. The duties will apply to larger schemes first, but all schemes are being urged to consider what action they can take.

Climate change risk is also key for contract-based (for example, group personal) pension schemes. A number of providers have recently announced ‘net zero’ targets and the Financial Conduct Authority has confirmed that it plans to consult on climate-related disclosure requirements in the first half of 2021, with a view to rules coming into force from 2022.

The main aim of these changes is to support good governance of, and appropriate action in response to, climate change risk.  The disclosure/reporting changes also mean that members (and anyone else who is interested, including action groups) will have access to more information about the way a pension scheme is considering and responding to climate change risk.

Employers might like to continue to talk to their personal pension scheme provider about the action it is taking. For the risk and other reasons we discuss at the end of this Insight, you might also like to discuss the new provisions for trust-based schemes with the trustees of any scheme that you sponsor.

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