Protecting Platform Workers: Options and Challenges

Authors Darcy du Toit & Kelle Howson

ISSN: 2413-9874
Affiliations: Centre for Transformative Regulation of Work, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa; Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Source: Industrial Law Journal, Volume 43 Issue 2, 2022, p. 711 – 725


The use of digital platforms as a means of organising work and creating new work opportunities (‘platform work’) is on the increase in developing as well as developed countries. The article starts from three widely-accepted premises: (1) platform work typically falls beyond the scope of labour law because labour rights are generally limited to ‘employees’ whereas platforms typically classify their workers as ‘independent contractors’; (2) in terms of international law, platforms workers enjoy the same basic rights as all other workers; and (3) national legal regulation needs to be adapted in order to ensure protection of platform workers’ rights. In this context the article examines the obstacles to regulatory change and considers the use of rating systems as a means of exerting reputational pressure on platforms to acknowledge workers’ rights and implement fair working practices, using the Fairwork project and its interventions across four continents as an exemplar. It then turns to the need for legalregulation of platform work as a means of bringing about fair working practices where voluntary compliance fails. In particular, it considers broader definitions of ‘worker’ to identify all those deserving of legal protection in addition to ‘employees’, as well as the forms in which labour rights can meaningfully be extended to workers operating outside an employer’s workplace and managed via digital applications.