EU draft law could give gig workers better leave rights

Written by By Sophie Soames, CNN

Looking to employ an extra pair of hands during the festive season? A controversial proposal in Brussels wants to give you extra protection.

The European Parliament has agreed to the strongest legislation for gig workers since the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) of 1994.

The law, first introduced in 2004, gives certain conditions workers must comply with in order to receive a maximum of 27 hours’ work per week without overtime payments.

However, a debate is continuing, with a deal still being thrashed out regarding a further revision. If passed, the draft will also give Gig Economy workers — those who have flexible contracts — statutory paid leave from January 1 2019 onwards.

As well as better accommodation and working conditions, gig workers will also be granted all the rights granted to employees in regular employment contracts, including maternity leave, paternity leave and the right to a minimum amount of overtime.

“Unions have welcomed the package of reforms,” said Marta Homoy-Steindl, head of social protection policy at the European Trade Union Confederation. “Member states are capable of introducing the reforms on their own, and not rely on the Commission.”

The issue was further promoted by the UK’s May 2017 Brexit vote , which caused uncertainty among British workers in this new environment.

“The election of Donald Trump in the US and the Brexit referendum in the UK led to increased concern over the impact of the gig economy on workers,” said Aliya Chibber, a labor lawyer at international law firm Linklaters LLP.

“This has given rise to a coalition of workers to lobby for better protections and rights as well as to regulate the gig economy to give workers clarity about their rights and obligations.”

In the US, the launch of Uber’s labor service UberEVERYDAY sparked protests from employees and regulators. This is just one of several job-related changes that Uber made in the past two years, resulting in more than 200 lawsuits and a small-claims battle with California’s Franchise Tax Board — to name but a few.

Under the EU’s draft proposal, there will be three to four weeks’ paid vacation for gig workers, meaning holiday would apply to both male and female gig workers, as well as measures relating to maternity leave, paternity leave and minimum hours of work.

The proposal is also a step in the right direction for workers’ rights, but remains vague in some ways, said Janet Forrest, research professor at the London School of Economics.

“While the proposals will help all workers, they leave out gig workers, and the new emphasis on maternity leave doesn’t necessarily reflect issues that we have seen in the UK with an array of work without maternity leave.”

But, according to Daniel West, partner at the global law firm at Hogan Lovells, the regulation will not have a major impact on the flexibility of the gig economy.

“These provisions are unlikely to deter gig businesses from offering flexible working arrangements in the way they do today and, with the considerable flexibility provided by technological innovation, companies will no doubt exploit all of the provisions in this draft to increase efficiency.”

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