News & Media

Labour Bill would give platform workers in the gig economy access to rights and protections

4 May 2021

Statement by Senator Marie Sherlock
Seanad Whip and Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Media, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht
  • Bill would address the power imbalance between workers and app platforms.
  • Brings our employment code up to date and stamps out bogus self-employment.
  • Allows access to information about the algorithms that decide their pay and performance.

Launching her new Bill to provide platform workers in the gig economy with better protections, Labour Employment spokesperson Marie Sherlock said the State must act to provide adequate rights and protections to the growing number of people in the gig economy.

Senator Sherlock said:

“At the heart of platform work in the gig economy is an enormous imbalance of power between the platform and the worker. This impacts on how pay is set, how workers can effectively be hired and fired at will because of how the apps control worker performance assessment and in how work is offered and made available to those on platform apps.

“The State has a responsibility to ensure that all workers, regardless of their employment status, have access to adequate rights and protections. Platform workers are the essential link in the chain between the service provided and the profit made by the platform, yet they are exploited and squeezed to maximise profits for the platform. By depriving workers of fair wages, fair hours, paid leave, sick pay, heath protections, big platforms make huge profits.

“Workers should not have to pay a price for our convenience. It’s time to strengthen workers’ rights in the digital age. We need to recognise there are new ways of working but that does not mean that these workers are no less employees. We need to add to our rules to make sure the best protections are in place for workers. 

“What we know is that platform workers have no real bargaining power, they have to bid for work, have no guarantee of paid employment and often have very poor pay. The reality is that many earn below the minimum wage and the system is ripe for exploitation.

“Our Bill changes that balance. It updates our employment code, recognising that platform work exists and would ensure that workers are being recognised as employees while also providing access to information about the algorithms that manage their pay and performance assessment. Our Bill seeks to lay the foundations for these workers to achieve fair pay to help prevent exploitation and address in-work poverty. 

“A worker is presumed to be an employee unless they are genuinely self-employed, set the price of their work and have an opportunity to profit, and that they control the type of work they do.

“Platform work arrived recently into our employment landscape and offers a real opportunity for many workers who want flexibility in their schedule. However, by its very nature the work is precarious. Often, platform workers are pitted against each other, fighting for jobs. It’s even more precarious at times when the work dries up, and workers are potentially left without any opportunity to earn money.

“What our bill is about is setting a floor of standards to ensure all work is decent. The use of technology to exploit the labour of insecure workers must be addressed.”

A copy of the Bill is available here. An explanatory memo outlining what the proposed law would do is here:

https://www.labour.ie/assets/files/pdf/platform_workers_and_bogus_self-employment_memo.pdf