Over a century ago, labour laws began to be instituted in diverse countries throughout the world. These laws were intended to provide protection to workers in what was recognized as an unequal relationship of exchange, but it also gave authority to managers to organize and direct their employees’ work. While the world of work has changed since the first labour regulations were instituted over a hundred years ago, the fundamental reasons for the existence of labour protections, to ensure safe and healthy workplaces, to give workers a voice, and to provide minimum protections with respect to working time and earnings, remain valid.
Although it would seem straightforward that the laws protecting workers should also apply to workers in what is described as the ‘gig economy’ or ‘platform-based work’, there is much debate – and confusion – on this issue. This lack of clarity stems in part from the novelty of platform-based work. There have also been an effort to conceal the nature of platform-based work through buzzwords such as ‘favours’, ‘rides and ‘tasks’ as well as the practice common to many platforms of classifying their workers as independent contractors. Platform-based work includes ‘crowdwork’ and ‘work-on-demand via apps’. In crowdwork, workers complete small jobs or tasks through online platforms, such as Amazon Mechanical Turk, Crowdflower, and Clickworker. In ‘work-on-demand via apps,’ workers perform duties such as providing transport, cleaning, home repairs, or running errands, but the workers learn about these jobs through mobile apps, from companies such as Uber, Taskrabbit, and Handy. The jobs are performed locally.