Taxi drivers in Barcelona strike against Uber and Cabify The effects of the gig economy on workers' rights Anna Ginès Associate Professor, Department of Law at ESADE In the gig economy, many app-based companies are altering the way in which services are provided. Companies such as Uber, Lift, Taskrabbit, Deriveroo, Glovo or Amazon Mechanical Turk have introduced new forms of work that have pushed the boundaries of labor law. Their business models consist of dividing their products into microtasks, externalizing their entire production to a wide number of independent contractors through an app or website and hiring each service on-demand. As a result, new technologies have allowed these companies to avoid hiring workers and to provide their services entirely through workers formally considered self-employed. Hiring people on-demand implies using zero-hour contracts where platform workers are not subject to specific working hours and have freedom to determine their schedule, the number of hours they work on a given day and, even, their willingness to work. Being subject to a zero-hour contract increases work uncertainty However, being subject to a zero-hour contract also increases work uncertainty among employees, as workers are not guaranteed a minimum number of working hours nor a minimum remuneration amount because they are called to work only when there is a labor need. In this context, should legal systems introduce this type of zero-hour contract to promote this way of working or should it be banned? Zero-hour contracts in Spain: an illegal form of work Although the zero-hour contract model is legally allowed in countries such as the United Kingdom, Greece or Italy, it is not legal in Spain. There are several reasons why Spain's law does not allow the zero-hour contract: the labor regulation requires contracts to stipulate specific working time and it also sets limits to work overtime -- full-time employees can work a maximum of 80 overtime hours per year and part-time workers need a written agreement if they are to work additional hours. Furthermore, when the contract has a minimum duration of four weeks, the Workers' Statue also requires companies to inform the employee in writing about the essential labor conditions, including working time. Legal limits: Should platform employees be qualified as employees or self-employed? Given the illegality of the zero-hour contract in Spain, does this mean that platform workers cannot be legally qualified as employees? Some authors have argued that platform workers must be qualified as self-employed workers or independent contractors instead. It is true that the Spanish regulation doesn't allow employment contracts where the worker unilaterally and freely determines his or her own working time and willingness to work. However, adopting a specific business model shouldn't influence how those providing the services are to be classified. Platforms often exercise indirect forms of control over working hours In my opinion, the use of a zero-hour contract by online platforms cannot put at risk the qualification of service providers as workers. The breach of working time regulation by platforms cannot be used to their benefit to exclude an employment relationship with those providing the services. Especially because the freedom that platform workers have in determining their working hours is, in most cases, not full and platforms often exercise indirect forms of control over working hours. For example, by recognizing economic incentives, predetermining slots or time zones, establishing restrictions or limitations for workers to change schedules, reserving the right to exclude from the platform those service providers that do not log on a minimum number of hours... Protecting workers' interests Should legal systems embrace or ban the zero-hour contract used by online platforms? This question implies deciding whether legal systems should regulate this type of contract to allow the business model used by digital platforms or if, on the contrary, jurisdictions should ban it to protect workers' interests. The platform work model based on hiring on-demand has multiple advantages that speak in favor of regulating the zero-hour contract. It is a more efficient model in terms of pairing supply with demand and it allows companies to perfectly adjust their workforce to the specific productive need registered at any given time. Hiring on-demand also reduces transaction costs and it offers greater flexibility in the management of working time, by eliminating inactive or unproductive periods. The platform work model based on the zero-hour scheme entails significant social risks However, the platform work model based on the zero-hour scheme entails significant social risks, as it contributes to greater employment precariousness, even when platform workers are formally considered workers or employees. By using a zero-hour contract, not only there is a substitution of, more or less, permanent or long-term relationships for very short-term hiring, but workers are accessing lesser-quality employment with no minimum guaranteed working time and, therefore, no minimum wage guarantee either. The zero-hour contract gives excessive business flexibility in managing working time that shifts greater risks to workers. With this scheme of working time management, platform workers assume the risks and costs of inactivity periods, lack of demand, delays, malfunctioning of the app or software ..., hence facing more penalties and job insecurity. Given these social risks for workers, in my opinion zero-hour contracts should be banned in legal systems to guarantee and protect workers' interests and, in essence, because they further allow the precarization of labor relations. Read the original research article: The zero hour contract in platform work. Should we ban it or embrace it? About the author Anna Ginès is Coordinator at the Institute for Labour Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Law at ESADE. She graduated in Law and Economics from Pompeu Fabra University and in 2011 obtained her PhD on 'Compensation of damages arising from labor accidents or occupational diseases'. She was awarded the V PhD Extraordinary Prize from the Law Department at Pompeu Fabra University. Her main research interests include workplace health and safety, comparative labor law, and law and economics. She has published numerous books, chapters and papers in national and international scientific journals, has participated in multiple research projects and as a lecturer in many conferences and seminars.

ESADE

Back to home

Should we ban or embrace zero-hour contracts?

05/2019

Taxi drivers in Barcelona strike against Uber and Cabify


The effects of the gig economy on workers' rights



Anna Ginès


Associate Professor, Department of Law at ESADE




In the gig economy, many app-based companies are altering the way in which services are provided. Companies such as Uber, Lift, Taskrabbit, Deriveroo, Glovo or Amazon Mechanical Turk have introduced new forms of work that have pushed the boundaries of labor law.


Their business models consist of dividing their products into microtasks, externalizing their entire production to a wide number of independent contractors through an app or website and hiring each service on-demand.


As a result, new technologies have allowed these companies to avoid hiring workers and to provide their services entirely through workers formally considered self-employed.


Hiring people on-demand implies using zero-hour contracts where platform workers are not subject to specific working hours and have freedom to determine their schedule, the number of hours they work on a given day and, even, their willingness to work.


Being subject to a zero-hour contract increases work uncertainty


However, being subject to a zero-hour contract also increases work uncertainty among employees, as workers are not guaranteed a minimum number of working hours nor a minimum remuneration amount because they are called to work only when there is a labor need.


In this context, should legal systems introduce this type of zero-hour contract to promote this way of working or should it be banned?


Zero-hour contracts in Spain: an illegal form of work


Although the zero-hour contract model is legally allowed in countries such as the United Kingdom, Greece or Italy, it is not legal in Spain.



There are several reasons why Spain's law does not allow the zero-hour contract: the labor regulation requires contracts to stipulate specific working time and it also sets limits to work overtime -- full-time employees can work a maximum of 80 overtime hours per year and part-time workers need a written agreement if they are to work additional hours. 


Furthermore, when the contract has a minimum duration of four weeks, the Workers' Statue also requires companies to inform the employee in writing about the essential labor conditions, including working time.


Legal limits: Should platform employees be qualified as employees or self-employed?


Given the illegality of the zero-hour contract in Spain, does this mean that platform workers cannot be legally qualified as employees?


Some authors have argued that platform workers must be qualified as self-employed workers or independent contractors instead.


It is true that the Spanish regulation doesn't allow employment contracts where the worker unilaterally and freely determines his or her own working time and willingness to work. However, adopting a specific business model shouldn't influence how those providing the services are to be classified.


Platforms often exercise indirect forms of control over working hours


In my opinion, the use of a zero-hour contract by online platforms cannot put at risk the qualification of service providers as workers. The breach of working time regulation by platforms cannot be used to their benefit to exclude an employment relationship with those providing the services.


Especially because the freedom that platform workers have in determining their working hours is, in most cases, not full and platforms often exercise indirect forms of control over working hours. For example, by recognizing economic incentives, predetermining slots or time zones, establishing restrictions or limitations for workers to change schedules, reserving the right to exclude from the platform those service providers that do not log on a minimum number of hours...


Protecting workers' interests


Should legal systems embrace or ban the zero-hour contract used by online platforms? This question implies deciding whether legal systems should regulate this type of contract to allow the business model used by digital platforms or if, on the contrary, jurisdictions should ban it to protect workers' interests.


The platform work model based on hiring on-demand has multiple advantages that speak in favor of regulating the zero-hour contract. It is a more efficient model in terms of pairing supply with demand and it allows companies to perfectly adjust their workforce to the specific productive need registered at any given time.


Hiring on-demand also reduces transaction costs and it offers greater flexibility in the management of working time, by eliminating inactive or unproductive periods.


The platform work model based on the zero-hour scheme entails significant social risks


However, the platform work model based on the zero-hour scheme entails significant social risks, as it contributes to greater employment precariousness, even when platform workers are formally considered workers or employees.


By using a zero-hour contract, not only there is a substitution of, more or less, permanent or long-term relationships for very short-term hiring, but workers are accessing lesser-quality employment with no minimum guaranteed working time and, therefore, no minimum wage guarantee either.


The zero-hour contract gives excessive business flexibility in managing working time that shifts greater risks to workers. With this scheme of working time management, platform workers assume the risks and costs of inactivity periods, lack of demand, delays, malfunctioning of the app or software ..., hence facing more penalties and job insecurity.


Given these social risks for workers, in my opinion zero-hour contracts should be banned in legal systems to guarantee and protect workers' interests and, in essence, because they further allow the precarization of labor relations.


Read the original research article: The zero hour contract in platform work. Should we ban it or embrace it?


About the author


Anna Ginès is Coordinator at the Institute for Labour Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Law at ESADE. She graduated in Law and Economics from Pompeu Fabra University and in 2011 obtained her PhD on 'Compensation of damages arising from labor accidents or occupational diseases'. She was awarded the V PhD Extraordinary Prize from the Law Department at Pompeu Fabra University. 


Her main research interests include workplace health and safety, comparative labor law, and law and economics. She has published numerous books, chapters and papers in national and international scientific journals, has participated in multiple research projects and as a lecturer in many conferences and seminars.

More Knowledge
Diez retos del trabajo en plataformas digitales para el ordenamiento jurídico-laboral español
Ginès Fabrellas, Anna
Estudios Financieros. Revista de Trabajo y Seguridad Social. Comentarios, Casos Prácticos. Recursos Humanos
Nº 425-426, 09/2018, p. 89 - 111
Responsabilidad compartida INSS y Mutua en orden al pago de prestaciones por incapacidad permanente y muerte y supervivencia derivadas de enfermedad profesional
Ginès Fabrellas, Anna; Peña Moncho, Juan
Trabajo y Derecho: Nueva Revista de Actualidad y Relaciones Laborales
Nº 45, 09/2018, p. 86 - 95
Crowdsourcing: una nuova modalità di esternalizzazione produttiva nel contesto digitale. Riflessioni sulla sua validità giuridica
Ginès Fabrellas, Anna
Diritto delle Relazioni Industriali
Vol. 28, nº 3, 10/2018, p. 754 - 772
The zero hour contract in platform work. Should we ban it or embrace it?
Ginès Fabrellas, Anna
Revista de Internet, Derecho y Política. IDP
Nº 28, 02/2019, p. 1 - 15
Back to home