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Unexpected delay of the EU platform directive

| Text: Kerstin Ahlberg, Editor EU & Arbetsrätt

There is a race against time to land the EU directive on platform work. In December, it looked like the issue was being solved, but then nearly half of the member states’ governments gave it a thumbs-down, including the Finnish and Swedish ones.

They did not want to accept the compromise reached by negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. A new compromise was reached – but four countries are still blocking the directive.

The background to the Commission's directive proposal is that platform companies typically treat food delivery workers and other platform workers as self-employed. However, according to the Commission, the platforms often control platform workers’ conditions to such an extent that they should be classified as employees and covered by the protective rules of labour law. 

The directive’s purpose is therefore to create mechanisms to make it easier for these workers to be recognised as employees. 

The directive proposal listed five criteria that typically characterise a regular employment relationship. If two or more of these applied to a platform worker’s situation, the starting point would be that he or she should be considered to be an employee. If the platform considered this to be incorrect, it would have to provide sufficient evidence to prove the worker was in fact self-employed.

Two rejected proposals

This list of criteria remained in the compromise reached between the Parliament and the Council of Ministers in December. Normally, it is then a pure formality to get the compromise adopted by both institutions. In this case, however, two such agreements have already been rejected.

This disagreement centres on whether the EU or member states should decide where to draw the line between employee and self-employed. Throughout the years, member states – not least those in the Nordic region – have been careful to retain the right to decide who should be covered by their national labour law.  

Consequently, this has been the major sticking point also in the negotiations on the platform directive. While the proposal does not contain an explicit definition of who is considered an employee, for some the mere fact that it lists circumstances to be considered goes too far.

The list was deleted

In the second compromise negotiated in early February, the list has indeed been removed. Now, it simply states that the relationship between a platform and a platform worker should be considered to be an employment relationship if there are "facts" indicating that the platform exercises direction and control over the work. The specific nature of these unspecified facts is therefore left for the member states to determine.

Finland and Sweden are now playing along, but Estonia, France, Greece and Germany have notified that they are still not content. Yet there has not yet been any formal vote on the issue, and right now, fevered lobbying is going on to get enough countries on board. 

The question is what else would be required for them to change their minds. Another question is whether the other member states or the Parliament would accept it if the directive were to be further diluted. Soon it will also be too late to rush additional proposals through the Parliament before the June election, when the political landscape could become very different.


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