A biker wearing a Deliveroo backpack drives in the central Barcelona, Spain.

A biker wearing a Deliveroo backpack drives in the central Barcelona, Spain.

25-02-2021ALBERT GEA - REUTERS - X01398

The European Commission kicked off a public consultation on Wednesday to determine whether to propose a law that would give gig economy workers greater rights as contractors or employees or by being allowed to bargain as a group.

The move comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted online platforms, with food delivery companies hiring more staff to deal with a surge in business and cleaners facing health and safety risks and limited social protection.

Courts and regulators have over the past year acted to boost gig workers' rights. The UK Supreme Court ruled last week that Uber drivers are entitled to workers' rights such as the minimum wage, while a Spanish court said in September that riders for Barcelona-based food delivery app Glovo were employees, not freelancers.

The EU executive said it wants feedback from trade unions and employers' groups during the six-week consultation. A subsequent consultation will look into the content of a possible law by the end of the year unless unions and employers decide to negotiate the issue themselves.

"Platforms can help people to find new jobs and explore new business ideas. At the same time we must ensure that our European values are well integrated in the digital economy," the Commission's digital chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

"We need to make sure that these new forms of work remain sustainable and fair," she said.

The consultation singled out seven areas for possible improvement - the employment status of gig workers, their working conditions, access to social protection, access to collective representation and bargaining, cross-border aspects, the companies' use of algorithmic management and training and professional opportunities.

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