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Gig economy principles

The ITF gig economy employer principles are aimed at ensuring that employers in the on-demand gig economy act to protect the human rights of their workers.

Disguised employment relationships

Workers in the gig economy are not recognised as employees by most on-demand gig economy platforms. This means that they are exposed to all the risks that their jobs entail without any of the protections normally provided by employers, such as insurance, personal protective equipment, sick pay, holiday pay and maternity-paternity pay. Nor do they enjoy employer contributions towards social security, health plans (where they are needed), and pension contributions. And they tend to be paid less than employed workers.

And since they are not recognised as employees, they do not get to enjoy their rights to safety in the workplace, freedom of association or collective bargaining by trade unions. In all these ways their working lives are similar to those of other workers in the informal sector.

New forms of control through digital technology

But workers in the gig economy are also exposed to new forms of control, new forms of management that create a specific set of problems for them. For example, gig workers have no workplace, and no human manager. They are controlled through the data they produce during their working hours, by nudges (positive or negative incentives), and by the way their pay is calculated. Often they don’t know exactly how this system works, how their pay is calculated, and changes to their pay and conditions are made without consulting them. 

The ITF gig economy employer principles are aimed at the root causes of the problems gig workers face – their misclassification as self-employed workers, at some of the unique problems they face (management by algorithm, lack of access to the data that is held on them) and at ensuring they can enjoy their labour rights. They also call on employers to pay their taxes, as the vast majority of employers do.

The ITF gig economy employer principles:

  1. Health, safety and PPE for all workers with adequate and appropriate provision of personal protection equipment and sanitation facilities, and specific protections against violence and harassment in the workplace;
  2. Correct employment status classification and an end to disguised employment relationships;
  3. A labour protection floor that enforces ILO Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, including gender rights, freedom of association and collective bargaining. These rights should be embodied in the algorithms themselves.
  4. Living wages, regardless of employment status, with negotiated cost recovery formulas for fairly classified self-employed workers. Workers must be paid on time, and should receive tips in full at the moment they are paid.
  5. Human and humane control where workers in the gig economy have their work conditioned and controlled by software and data. Named individuals should be responsible for the software and its impacts on workers. 
  6. Fair digital contracts – flexibility should not come at the cost of decent working conditions. Deactivations from the app should follow a fair process in which appeals are heard. Contracts should specify rights to data, and changes to working conditions should be consulted and negotiated. Workers ratings should be portable across apps.
  7. Workers’ data rights – workers produce data that is then used to control their work, so they have the right to know what data is collected, what it is used for, where it is stored, and how the software built on it works. They should enjoy free access to all the data collected on them during working time, in recognition that it is their data since they created it.
  8. Gender neutral software – platforms must ensure that their algorithms and digital processes are tested so that gender biases against women in relation to pay, safety and other issues can be eliminated.
  9. Access to social protections including healthcare, pensions and other forms of social security and insurance protection; and,
  10. Paying taxes – social protections are paid by the state, but can only be paid for if companies adopt responsible business practices, such as paying their share of taxes.