How does the law define the gig worker?

How does the law define the gig worker?

Labour laws pertaining to gig workers are covered only under the Code on Social Security, 2020. While this class of workers came into the ambit of the labour laws for the first time, the first task before the policymakers was to arrive at an operational definition as to who the gig workers are. Chapter I, Section 2(35) of the Code on Social Security, 2020 defines a gig worker as “a person who participates in a work arrangement and earns from such activities outside of a traditional employer–employee relationship.” The definition, however, lacks clarity as to who exactly a gig worker is, but it clearly separates the gig workers from regular employees and other non-employee classes of workers.

There has been no attempt made to classify the gig workers as employees in the new labour codes.

Click on a locationbelow to explore the nearest classification of a gig worker.

Chapter 1, Section 2(26) of the Code on Social Security defines an “employee” as “a person employed on wages by an establishment, either directly or through a contractor to do any skilled, semi-skilled, unskilled or any other work, whether the terms of employment be expressed or implied.” To treat the gig workers as employees would also call for employment status for millions of contract labourers and unorganised workers in the country. Supporting employment status could result in loss of incentives for businesses, loss of employment and stifling of innovation of the platform economies. The economic crisis of the 1970s, 1980s and 2008 showed how neo-liberal ideas supporting private property rights, entrepreneurial freedom and free markets facilitated the growth of precarious work, pulling out employment protection during the economic downturns (Woodcock and Graham 2020). One cannot, however, ignore the advantages the gig economy brings in, namely the creation of new markets and employment, creating on-demand access to goods and services easing the lives of millions of consumers, formalising the informal sector or increasing the female labour force participation rate.
platform worker
Section 2(61) of the code defines a platform worker ‘‘as someone engaged in or undertaking platform work,’’ which hardly provides any operational element in the definition. All platform workers are likely to be gig workers since platform workers are paid on task basis, whereas all gig workers may not be platform workers. Companies may hire gig workers through short-term contracts who are not sourced through digital platforms. Compiling data on gig workers who are not platform workers could be difficult and needs to be addressed.
To call a worker a “dependent contractor,” one needs to meet certain criteria, like working for single employer for longer duration, drawing income from the same employer and working solely without any subcontractors or workers. The on-demand platform workers in India typically register with more than one platform simultaneously. If India goes with the universalisation of social security, it does not matter much whether the gig workers are dependent or independent contractors, since the social security benefits are drawn from the central pool of funds created by the state.

The feature is based on the article Labour Laws for Gig Workers in the Context of Labour Law Reforms. Written by Deepika M G and Madhusoodhan M, the article explores who the gig workers are, under what types can they be classified, and what is the ­nature of contract of work in gig economy that differentiates gig workers from employees and other categories of workers.


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