The digital revolution is affecting the world of work in many ways. Not only is it changing the nature of certain jobs, it is also disrupting the way work is offered, accessed and contracted. The growth of online platforms and the collaborative economy create new challenges regarding the protection of labour suppliers working through online platforms, and the need for a level-playing field across diverse forms of work.

In 2016 the European Commission published a Communication on the collaborative economy, taking stock of related debates and developments and proposing that it be  monitored.

WEC-Europe and UNI-Europa conducted a joint project in 2017/2018 on “Online talent platforms, labour market intermediaries and the changing world of work. Key recommendations put forward in this context focused on applying existing regulation appropriately, ensuring the correct classification of workers and the fostering of social innovation.

The rise of online talent platforms is prompting questions on the working conditions and social protection for people working via such platforms. But online talent platforms are not homogeneous and the employment status, working conditions and social protection they offer can vary considerably.

In its response to the European Commission’s Social Partners Consultation on working conditions in platform work launched in February 2021, the World Employment Confederation-Europe reiterates that the legal framework existing at EU level is sufficient to take advantage of the new technologies and ways to organise work while at the same time ensuring the protection of workers. Yet, correct application and enforcement needs to be stepped up. The World Employment Confederation-Europe does not intent to enter into formal negotiations with its sectoral social partner UNI-Europa on a legislative instrument on working conditions in platform work but will continue playing a key role in the policy debate at EU level.

In the second stage of the consultation which closed in September 2021, the World Employment Confederation-Europe insists on the need to correctly classify people working via online platforms at the national level in order to prevent the involuntary and mandatory status of self-employed. The World Employment Confederation-Europe also does not believe that a rebuttable presumption of employment is a fruitful solution, but observes that some platforms act like private employment services companies and offer temporary agency work without respecting or complying with the European and national laws on temporary agency work and imposing a self-employed status. That is the reason why the World Employment Confederation-Europe does believe that online talent platforms should be classified and judged based on their de facto and real business activities and should not be allowed to hide behind a too strong presumption of self-employment examined on a case-by-case basis.

Amongst the digital solutions that can improve labour market functioning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one that holds great potential to increase inclusiveness and efficiency.

AI allows to identify skills needs, support recruiters in matching people to jobs, improve fact-based matching, identify and predict the interoperability of skills, traits and competences, predict labour market developments, identify and prevent human-bias in recruitment procedures, identify the sustainability of employment matches, support better efficiency of roles and tasks vis-à-vis skills and competences available, support remote applications including for those that face disabilities, anticipate labour demand fluctuations, create and configure jobs and tasks that align with the supply of workers (and their work preferences, competence and skills), support human resource management, support risk management and advise on the configuration and creation of efficient and diverse teams and workforces.

Trustworthiness and proper controls on the collection, storage and use of data are in place are prerequisite for the further uptake of digital technology. In its response to the European Commission’s public consultation on its White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, the World Employment Confederation-Europe insists on the need for a balanced regulatory framework to address concerns related to the use of AI in HR services. The private employment services sector also makes proposals to increase trust in the deployment of the technology to the benefit of labour markets inclusiveness and efficiency.

In February 2021, WEC-Europe reached out the European Commission and the European Parliament to express its concerns regarding some developments surrounding the legislative ambitions on AI in the EU: firstly, the intention to classify all workers’ rights and recruitment related AI as ‘high risk’, as well as employment and recruitment as respectively ‘high risk’ sector and ‘high risk’ use or purpose and secondly, the proposal for a third-party certification by new national public authority. For more details, read the letter addressed to the European institutions.

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