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India’s gig workers may be conferred employee tag in major government policy shift: Report

The absence of such a tag has made it hard for gig workers in India to access and lobby for benefits reserved for employees.

The government is considering widening the ambit of ’employment’ to include gig and platform work, ET reported on October 19. Anganwadi workers might also be recategorised as employees in a set of new reforms under a new ‘National Employment Policy’, the report claimed.

MediaNama has reached out to the Ministry of Labour and Employment to confirm this development and will update the report once a response is received.

Gig workers in India recently filed a petition with the Supreme Court arguing that they are employees, and should accordingly be entitled to social security benefits. Various countries, including the UK, Netherlands, and France have also set the precedent for such reforms by declaring that gig workers are employees.

Gig worker unions praise move, want recognition of employee-employer relationship

“This is a welcome development, and we are thankful to the ministers for responding to our efforts.” Shaik Salauddin, the National General Secretary of the Indian Federation of App Based Transport Workers (IFAT) told MediaNama, adding that “the implementation of such a plan must happen soon, so that we can avail its benefits.”

A representative from the All India Gig Workers Union also praised the development:

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The move will help workers without contracts. They are left at the mercy of the organisation who would pay them well in order to lure them but would make up 100 other ways to reduce their earnings as a part of cost cutting measure as per their wish. Without being labelled employees they are also without other benefits which employees get like ESIC, PF, leaves, pension etc. Moreover they can’t get their disputes or concerned resolved by complaining to the labour commissioner’s office. — AIGWU representative

IFAT had earlier filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding that gig workers be recognised as employees under the Unorganised Workers Act 2008, which would entitle them to the following benefits:

  • Life and disability cover
  • Old age protection
  • Provident fund
  • Employment injury benefit
  • Housing
  • Educational schemes for children
  • Old age homes

Current social security for gig workers: To provide equivalent benefits to gig workers, the government devised the Code on Social Security 2020. Under this code, social security schemes can be funded by the government, aggregators, the state government, or CSR. The code, however, is yet to be put into effect.

What is gig workers’ argument for employee-employer relationship?

IFAT’s petition points out several themes common to the terms and conditions of aggregators’ work arrangement with gig-workers:

1. Mandatory use of company equipment: The petition argues that gig workers are mandated to use company equipment, resembling an employee-employer relationship. It cites uniforms from Zomato and Swiggy and GPS trackers on Ola vehicles as examples.

2. Control over the manner of work: Aggregators have significant control over the manner in which work is carried out, the petition argues. Zomato and Swiggy control the timelines under which deliveries have to be made, and Ola drivers are required to sanitise vehicles at company locations.

3. Charges fixed by Aggregators: Listing out the terms and conditions of aggregators, the petition argues that Swiggy and Zomato have complete control over the charges for the work by delivery partners, making them akin to traditional employers.

Also read: App Delivery Workers Missing Out On Social Security Benefits File Petition In Supreme Court

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Which other countries have recognised gig workers as employees?

  • Netherlands: Uber drivers are employees and not contractors, an Amsterdam District Court ruled on September 13, in a case filed by the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FNV).
  • UK: The UK Supreme Court unanimously ruled on February 19 that Uber drivers are employees. Over 70,000 Uber drivers in the United Kingdom were entitled to a minimum wage, paid holidays, and pension after the ruling. The workers, however, did not retain the right to flexible hours.
  • France: The French Supreme Court upheld an Uber driver’s right to be considered an employee in a judgement on March 4, 2020.
  • California: The state of California in the US passed a bill in September 2019, that would require workers for companies like Uber to be reclassified as employees. Uber tried to resist the judgement with a ballot measure, which was quashed as unconstitutional by a ruling on August 21, the Guardian reported.

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Written By

Reporter at MediaNama. Email: nishant@medianama.com

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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