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A Model Law for Platform Based Gig Workers

The platform economy has ushered in a new era in the service sector by deploying information and communication technology to match customers with service providers and ensure efficient service delivery. Today, the platform economy has also become a major creator of unskilled and semi-skilled jobs for lakhs of persons who undertake gig work for aggregators. NITI Aayog has estimated that by 2029-30, gig workers would constitute 4.1% of the country’s total workforce.

Platform work is often touted by aggregator platforms as having a flexible work structure that allows persons to pick and choose “gigs” based on their availability and convenience. While this is no doubt true for persons for whom platform work is a supplementary source of income, a significant proportion of platform workers have become increasingly dependent on these digital labour platforms for their livelihoods, often making platform work their primary source of income.

Furthermore, platform workers face a range of challenges, arising primarily from the nature of work organisation in the platform-based gig economy. These difficulties include irregularities in payments, the lack of social security protections and mechanisms for collective bargaining, as well as the absence of fair grievance redress mechanisms. Perhaps most significantly, platform workers face challenges due to the algorithmic management that characterises work organisation in the platform economy. Aggregators are not transparent about the automated decision making systems used for work allocation, payments etc. Aggregators exercise significant control over the conditions of work, despite having only “work-for-hire” agreements and not employment relationships with workers.

Given the distinct nature of the challenges faced by workers in the platform economy, there is a need for a separate law that takes into account the specific issues faced by gig-workers. At the union level, Parliament has enacted the Code on Social Security, 2020 (yet to come into force), which provides for social security benefits to be provided to platform workers. At the state level, while some states have introduced welfare schemes, Rajasthan became the first state to codify such benefits into law, through the Rajasthan Platform Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Act, 2023 (also yet to come into force).

However, in order to truly provide for platform based gig workers, the law must go beyond mere social security and consider including compliances for aggregator platforms. Such a legal framework must provide for rights that platform workers may exercise against aggregators. Some basic rights that ought to be recognised are those pertaining to fair contracts, minimum income entitlements, accessible and effective mechanisms for raising disputes with aggregators, collective bargaining, and a reasoned notice prior to termination from the platform. The state must empower workers to seek information from aggregators on the algorithms employed for the management of work, including work allocation, determination of pay, rating information, categorisation of workers etc.

A major attempt at regulating platform work was recently undertaken by the European Union, which in March provisionally agreed on a Platform Work Directive that aimed to improve the working conditions of platform workers and protect the personal data of persons performing platform work, irrespective of the nature of their contractual relationship with the platforms. Other jurisdictions have also likewise sought to regulate the platform economy.

The following draft of a model law for the gig economy has been published with the intention of starting a conversation on how a regulation on the platform economy can go beyond social security and provide for concrete rights for gig workers similar to those enshrined in conventional labour law. This law is envisioned to be adopted at the state level. Feedback and inputs on this model law are welcome. Please write to us here.

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