Platform work

What is platform work?

The digital transformation, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is currently shaping the EU economy and its labour market. For this reason, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament are currently negotiating the possible wording and shape of a directive on improving working conditions through online platforms (the so-called ‘Platform Work Directive’).

As citizens, we are more and more in direct contact with different types of services provided through online platforms. Statistically speaking, most of us have, at least once, used various applications through which we could order a quick lunch, do some shopping or use transport services. Nonetheless, no one has so far given any thought to the working conditions of the people directly performing the aforementioned services for us.

Digital work platforms have become an important part of this emerging social and economic landscape. Today, more than 28 million people in the EU work through digital job platforms. Their number is expected to reach 43 million by 2025. Digital labour platforms promote innovative services and new business models and create many opportunities for consumers and companies.

As the EU rule-makers point out, an estimated nine out of ten platforms currently operating in the EU classify the people working through them as self-employed. The majority of these individuals are in fact autonomous in their work and have the possibility to use their work on the platform to develop their business. Genuine self-employment has a positive impact on job creation, business development, service accessibility and digitalisation in the Union. In contrast, many of the self-employed also face varying degrees of dependency and control from the digital employment platforms they operate, be it in terms of wages or working conditions. Reading the explanatory memorandum to the newly drafted directive, an estimated up to five and a half million people working through employment platforms may be at risk of misclassification of their employment status and are therefore exposed to poor working conditions and insufficient access to social protection. As a consequence, they cannot fully enjoy the rights and protections to which they are entitled as workers – these rights include, for example, the right to a minimum wage, working time provisions, occupational health and safety, equal pay for men and women and the right to paid leave, as well as access to social protection as against accidents at work, unemployment, illness and old age.

The aim of the aforementioned directive is to improve the working conditions of workers on such platforms and to protect those working through them with regard to the processing of their personal data by means of automated monitoring or decision-making systems. Platform work involves many different services, hence many difficulties arise in establishing uniform rules.

What will change?

In December 2021 The European Commission has presented the proposed directive, and the Council has already adopted a position on the matter on 12 June 2023. The European Commission presented the proposed directive, while on 12 June 2023 the Council had already reached a position on it. The directive is expected to introduce two key changes: defining the appropriate employment status of platform workers and establishing the first EU rules on the use of artificial intelligence at work.

The proposed Directive contains a provision whereby a person is considered to be a worker if three criteria out of the seven listed below are met:

  • The digital work platform sets upper limits on salary levels;
  • The employee must follow certain rules regarding appearance and behaviour towards the recipient of the service or the principal of the work;
  • The performance of the work is supervised through the platform, including by electronic means;
  • The platform limits the freedom to choose working hours or periods of absence, as well as the freedom to accept or reject tasks;
  • The freedom to use subcontractors or substitutes is restricted;
  • Restricts the ability to expand the client base or perform work for third parties.

The draft EU Directive contains a glossary of statutory definitions, which includes such elements as a definition of ,’digital labour platform’ (Article 2(1)(1)(a-d)). More importantly, the Directive also defines the notion of ”work on online platforms”, which means any work organised via a digital labour platform and carried out in the Union by a natural person or an intermediary under a contractual relationship between the digital labour platform and the natural person, whether or not there is a contractual relationship between the natural person or the intermediary and the recipient of the service (subpara. 3). Secondl the draft includes a definition of an ‘online platform worker’, which is any person who performs work through online platforms and who has an employment contract or is expected to have an employment relationship as defined by law, collective agreements or practice in the Member States, taking into account the case law of the Court of Justice.
Finally, the concept of “intermediary”, which means any natural or legal person who enters into a contractual relationship, including through subcontracting, with a person performing work via online platforms or a digital labour platform with a view to making work available via that digital labour platform.

Artificial intelligence in the workplace?

A common hallmark of platform work is the exercise of control by the platform over the work process. This control includes things like setting a top-down rate for the work done, giving detailed requirements on how the work is to be done, and limiting the ability to build their own client base. The main objection to algorithms operating in this way is that workers do not actually have knowledge of what, in particular, their pay due depends on. Hence, apart from acting in the statutory field (at EU and national level), we should also focus on acting in the technological dimension of platform work and pay attention to improving the quality of control tools based on the artificial intelligence system. Access to appropriate software by state authorities would allow to improve its operation and directly influence the appropriate operation of algorithmic management mechanisms inside the platforms. It is precisely these types of technical solutions that would make it possible to supervise and control employment conditions in this type of work provided, in line with the European Commission’s call for greater transparency of digital platforms and, through this, to support supervision and control of employment conditions in this type of work.

At the moment, the next challenge before the new provision is the negotiations between the EU institutions, which may yet lead to many changes in the wording of the directive – both at the initiative of the Member States and the lobbying of technology companies and digital platforms.


Zuzanna Włoczko, legal assistant

Katarzyna Hiller, Attorney at Law



Katarzyna Hiller

Attorney at Law, Compliance Officer, LL.M. in International Commercial Law

Katarzyna Hiller