Labour Studies Index

Regulating work in the gig economy: What are the options?

Document type Article
Author Stanford, Jim
Author Stewart, Andrew
Journal The Economic and Labour Relations Review
Volume 28
Date 2017 09
ISSN 1035-3046, 1838-2673
Pages 420-437

Abstract

Paid work associated with digital platform businesses (in taxi, delivery, maintenance and other functions) embodies features which complicate the application of traditional labour regulations and employment standards. This article reviews the extent of this type of work in Australia, and its main characteristics. It then considers the applicability of existing employment regulations to these ‘gig’ jobs, citing both Australian and international legislation and case law. There is considerable uncertainty regarding the scope of traditional regulations, minimum standards and remedies in the realm of irregular digitally mediated work. Regulators and policymakers should consider how to strengthen and expand the regulatory framework governing gig work. The article notes five major options in this regard: enforcement of existing laws; clarifying or expanding definitions of ‘employment’; creating a new category of ‘independent worker’; creating rights for ‘workers’, not employees; and reconsidering the concept of an ‘employer’. We review the pros and cons of these approaches and urge regulators to be creative and ambitious in better protecting the minimum standards and conditions of workers in these situations.