EU Commission vies to protect future for platform workers

Future legislation on improving the working conditions of platform workers is set to be put forward by the EU executive later this year. [Shutterstock]

This article is part of our special report Connectivity and the workplace of tomorrow.

The European Commission will attempt to protect the future of platform workers in the EU by setting minimum standards and potentially enforcing pension entitlements and insurance obligations.

Future legislation on improving the working conditions of platform workers is set to be put forward by the EU executive later this year. Meanwhile, a public consultation has been launched on the plans as a means to identify the means by which platform workers can be afforded more labour rights in the upcoming rules.

Speaking at an online event on Wednesday (4 March), the Commission’s Joost Korte, director general for employment, social affairs and inclusion, said that the coronavirus pandemic has  highlighted the need to protect platform workers as part of new EU rules.

“In times of COVID it is important that we do not create more precarious jobs,” Korte told participants at the event. From the Commission’s perspective, it is essential that platform workers are granted “proper insurance and access to a pension entitlement [and] all the normal things that we expect from the labour market in the European Union,” he said.

The EU executive is also reflecting on “algorithm management” within platform economy work. “When you are asked to do a job by a computer, what does this mean for the relationship between the employer and the employee?” he asked, noting that this question was something that the Commission would seek to address in the upcoming legislation.

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Transition to agile organisations

The remarks came as part of an event marking the launch of telecommunications company Liberty Global’s Future of Work Report, produced by Deloitte, which highlighted how the pandemic has revolutionised the nature of work and employment.

The study highlights how the mass transition to remote working calls for a new environment of trust between employer and employee, the importance of digital upskilling, and more collaborative work environments as distributed working methods become the norm.

The importance of digital upskilling has been on the minds of bureaucrats in Brussels for some time. Last year, the Commission published their revised European Skills Agenda, which highlighted the need for ensuring that 70% of the EU adult population has basic digital skills.

For its part, Liberty Global believes the transition to “agile organisation structures” that many companies have had to go through during the pandemic, can lead to many benefits for the future of employment.

“Empowered employees, integrated processes, multidisciplinary teams, and speed: these are all key ingredients for this agile model,” said Amy Blair, chief people officer at Liberty Global, adding that the transition to this new culture had to happen “in a matter of weeks” owning to the coronavirus restrictions.

Moreover, this new culture of working will lead to new needs in terms of the workforce of the future, Blair says.

“When you talk about a world where you have a blend of virtual and personal interactions, it’s a completely different skillset. And empowerment and trust, are foundational here,” she said.

“Leaders will have to allow their teams to work more autonomously and in different locations. And managers are going to have to rely on human skills such as empathy, listening, awareness, foresight, adaptability, resilience, and patience.”

For Adam Spearing, chief technology officer at Salesforce, autonomy is an important ingredient for the future of work, but that needs to be accompanied by an increased reliance on communications at all levels within an organisation.

“Ambiguity, once that starts to creep in, you’ll find it very difficult to keep that motivation and efficiency in working from home,” he said. “The task of the modern leader is to have empathy and understanding for individuals’ situation, but being really clear on what you actually are expecting of that group.”

Wednesday’s event took place ahead of a presentation by the Commission of its action plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, due to be published on Thursday (5 March).

As part of new benchmarks to be included in the plans, the Commission will put forward a target of having 78% of the EU population in employment by 2030, according to President von der Leyen, who participated in a virtual conference on employment promoted by the European People’s Party.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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