18-20 August 2022

Reflections on the Scope of Labor Law: Protection of Platform Workers

Yun Hao Hsin*

Abstract:In recent years, under vigorous development of digital labor platforms, the work arrangements are becoming increasingly diverse, which does not necessarily conform to the traditional image of employees. As a result, workers may face the difficulties of all-or-nothing labor protection under traditional labor laws. In addition, based on the consideration of workforce utilization or cost strategy, digital platforms may, on the one hand, continuously and unilaterally adjust the contractual terms with platform workers; on the other hand, it strongly advocates an equal status with platform workers, and wish to avoid the possibility of bearing any legal responsibility. Given the lack of clear and complete legal protection, it will undoubtedly pose a new challenge to the rights of platform workers.

In the international Society, there has been many initiatives to create an intermediate type between employees and self-employed workers. For example, Spain, Italy, and Canada find that some workers are self-employed but economically vulnerable and need labor protection. Thus, these countries create an economically-dependent worker status to extend labor protection. In Europe, Spain has passed a special law called the Self-Employed Worker Statute for all self-employed workers, providing further protection for economically self-employed workers. Italian laws for the intermediate category of workers develop from procedural to substantive rights, such as civil procedure law and employment law, and keep pace with the times. In North America, the Canadian labor Code has a broad definition of employee to cover economically self-employed workers, extending collective labor laws to more workers, and reversing the burden of proof to combat misclassification. Each legal system shows great value for reference.

In Taiwan, protection for platform workers mainly focuses on occupational safety and social security. To protect food delivery workers on the platform, several cities take further steps to enact laws to secure more dimensions of protection, and the Ministry of Labor also publishes relevant guidance. Although the laws mentioned above, to some extent, alleviated the labor problems arising from platform work, protection subjects and coverage under these laws are limited and thus fail to effectively respond to labor issues that arise from the continuous evolution of work patterns, it shall be necessary to legalize to expand the scope of labor protection. Therefore, Taiwan’s academia, competent authority, and legislators have all proposed a legal system for the intermediate category of workers to solve labor problems arising from emerging work patterns.

This article discusses the development of digital labor platforms in Taiwan, as well as the labor problems faced by platform workers, and suggest that platform workers who meet all labor characteristics can be provided with comprehensive labor protection. Contrary to the self-employed worker, those who lack personal subordination but with economic dependence should at least receive basic protection. For this purpose, in addition to the applicable norms that do not limit employee status, a legal system for the intermediate category of workers can be enacted to expand labor protection, to respond to the need for labor protection arising from the multi-type of work.

* Labor Inspector, Department of Labor, Taipei City, Taiwan.


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