STATUS OF GIG AND PLATFORM WORKERS VIS-À-VIS CODE ON SOCIAL SECURITY AND UK SUPREME COURT UBER JUDGE

This article has been authored by Nandini Gupta a 4th year student at University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University




Introduction


The Oxford English dictionary defines a gig economy as an economic system in which many short periods of work are available rather than permanent jobs. In other words, a Gig Economy encompasses the use of workers on a temporary or freelance basis to performs jobs. A gig worker takes up a job on hourly basis or part-time basis. It is mostly temporary in nature and the worker is then paid after the completion of the job. i.e., piece rate. Urban Company, Uber, Ola, Swiggy, Zomato and many similar digital services that connect customers with service providers constitute India’s booming gig economy. India has the highest number of gig workers, with 24% of global online labour, as per the Oxford Internet Institute’s Online Labour Index.


A gig economy enables independence of choice to explore new fields and helps in creating new pool of talent. Due to absence of a proper employer-employee agreement in place, gig workers are often subjected to arbitrary terms with an absence of social security benefits and basic rights. The Fairwork Project in 2020 released a report wherein they evaluated the working conditions of gig workers, more specifically the ‘Platform Workers’ in the digital space. The major findings of their report included –


· Gig or Platform Workers when demarcated from Organised workers have limited access to protections of minimum wage, working hours, social security benefits and collective bargaining. India for the first time recognised ‘Gig’ and ‘Platform’ workers in 2019 when a draft of Code on Social Security was introduced, which the author shall discuss later.

· The Project considered a total of eleven platforms for their report from sectors of e-commerce, food delivery, ride hailing and home services. These platforms were judged on five main parameters of Fair Pay, Fair Conditions, Fair Contracts, Fair Management, and Fair Representation.

· The Report stated that there was insufficient evidence of the fact that the workers were paid a minimum wage by the platforms. There was also an absence of Social Security benefits and the procedure through which a worker could claim them was unclear.

· A proper set of Terms and Conditions between the platforms and workers were also missing, which resulted in the wrongful fixation of responsibility of wages and working conditions of the workers.

· However, the Report laid down that most of the platforms were successful in establishing a due and proper channel of communication wherein the workers could appeal to the platform regarding their grievances.


Status Quo


In an economy of approximately 3 million gig workers which includes - workers from online platforms, independent contractors, on call workers and independent workers, there arose a need for regulation especially when estimates state that 56% of the new employment which is generated is from the gig world.


This is where the Code on Social Security comes in which aims to regularise the workforce from all spheres including gig and platform workers. The Code which received the President’s assent on 28 September, 2020 replaces nine acts and aims to bring in uniformity in providing social security benefits to employees.


Section 2(35) of the Code of Social Security defines Gig Worker as “a person who performs work or participates in a work arrangement and earns from such activities outside of traditional employer-employee relationship.”


Section 2(60) defines ““platform work” as a work arrangement outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship in which organisations or individuals use an online platform to access other organisations or individuals to solve specific problems or to provide specific services or any such other activities which may be notified by the Central Government, in exchange for payment” and Section2(61) defines a ‘Platform worker’ as “a person engaged in or undertaking platform work.”


Further, the Code under Section 113 provides for compulsory registration of gig and platform workers to avail the benefits of the schemes framed under this Code, provided firstly, he has completed sixteen years of age or an age which the Central Government may prescribe and secondly, he has to submit a self-declaration containing information which the Central Government may prescribe.


Earlier, there was no legal sanction that provid