Online platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo have deliberately framed their arrangements with workers to avoid regulation while other businesses carry the cost of complying with workplace laws.

That’s one of the findings of a landmark report on the so-called gig economy, which employs almost 1 million Australians, including 236,800 Victorians.

Former Fair Work ombudsman Natalie James led a two-year investigation into Victoria’s gig economy at the behest of the state government, after widespread concerns were raised about the treatment of on-demand workers.

While some people appreciated the flexibility on-demand work provides, Ms James found the uncertain status of workers – who are not classified as employees and therefore do not qualify for workplace entitlements, protections and obligations – was at the heart of the system’s failures of workers.

Despite being commissioned by the Victorian government, Ms James found the federal government was best placed to drive change, given its responsibility for the national system of workplace laws.

Online platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo have deliberately framed their arrangements with workers to avoid regulation while other businesses carry the cost of complying with workplace laws.

That’s one of the findings of a landmark report on the so-called gig economy, which employs almost 1 million Australians, including 236,800 Victorians.

Former Fair Work ombudsman Natalie James led a two-year investigation into Victoria’s gig economy at the behest of the state government, after widespread concerns were raised about the treatment of on-demand workers.

While some people appreciated the flexibility on-demand work provides, Ms James found the uncertain status of workers – who are not classified as employees and therefore do not qualify for workplace entitlements, protections and obligations – was at the heart of the system’s failures of workers.

Despite being commissioned by the Victorian government, Ms James found the federal government was best placed to drive change, given its responsibility for the national system of workplace laws.

She recommended the development of a code of conduct to better protect on-demand workers, the removal of barriers to collective bargaining, and a one-stop-shop support agency to help workers when disputes arise.

If the federal government would not lead, Victoria should work with other states to drive legislative changes to offer greater fairness for platform workers, she said.

While he would not comment specifically on the recommendations, state Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas said there was a clear need for laws to be tightened to support gig workers.

“The gig economy is relied upon by millions of consumers and workers across the country, but there are holes when it comes to industrial relations that put workers’ rights to fair pay and conditions at risk,” he said.

Previously, Mr Pallas had indicated the state could act alone to bolster protections for gig economy workers.

On-demand workers are more likely to be young, urban and male. People who speak a language other than English at home are 1.5 times more likely to be platform workers.

An estimated 40 per cent of on-demand workers surveyed as part of the inquiry were not even aware of their rates of pay.

“Platforms have been deliberate in framing their arrangements with workers,” Ms James found.

“This enables platforms to avoid the operation of close and detailed labour regulation while other businesses are carrying the costs of complying with those requirements.”

Those pressures are becoming more acute as the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic tear through every aspect of society, Ms James told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Extracted in full from: https://amp-theage-com-au.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/amp.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/workers-pay-price-as-gig-economy-avoids-regulations-inquiry-finds-20200714-p55bv2.html

The Report of the Inquiry into the Victorian On-Demand Workforce

The Victorian Government’s Media Release can be accessed here.

The Report can be found on the Engage Victoria website and downloaded here.