A new report calls for more legal protections for platform workers.
Gig economy workers should have greater employment rights to boost innovation and provide them with greater protection, according to a report on the future of work by the International Bar Association’s Global Employment Institute.
The IBA Report on the Future of Work warns that the uncertainty facing firms and workers operating in the on-demand economy – which it sees as becoming more and more the norm – causes inefficiencies in the labour market and could be “counterproductive to innovation”. It recommends workers receive holiday pay while retaining flexible working hours, minimum entitlements to employment protection and access to collective bargaining.
The report, which covers the impact on work of everything from Artificial Intelligence [AI] and the Internet of Things to robotics, says “freelancers, distant workers and employees of fixed and indefinite terms are the workers of the future”. It speaks of work being seen as tasks rather than jobs and highlights mental health issues alongside rights ones, equality implications of increasing reliance on algorithms, including the potential for age discrimination, and says as the number of employees drops [in part due to AI and in part due to an increase in platform workers], there will be implications for tax regimes.
It says: “What is clear is that a human-centered agenda will be necessary to fine-tune and create equitable social and economic policies, and business practices around work.”
On tax, one proposal is to scrap income tax as the primary revenue source for national exchequers. The suggestion comes as the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) predicts that more than three million industrial robots will be in use in factories around the world by 2020. The report cites estimates that at least one in three jobs are vulnerable to artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. National exchequers currently rely on income tax and value added tax (VAT) as their primary revenue source, it says, saying this will need to change if there is mass unemployment and a rise in alternative income generation such as gig working in the future. As there is no obvious alternative income source for national exchequers, the report considers that new types of taxation, such as digital or robotics tax, may need to be implemented to protect the global economy and promote growth.
The report, the culmination of a two-year project between the IBA and the International Labour Organisation, follows a worldwide debate about the future of work instigated by the ILO in 2017. Representatives appointed by committees from the IBA’s Legal Practice Division (LPD) formed a Working Group to coordinate the project and lead the preparation of each committee’s individual reports. Covering 10 legal disciplines, including immigration, litigation and tax law, the report focuses on the potential impact of disruptive technologies on work regulations in the future.The debate will be developed worldwide until June 2020.
Salvador del Rey Guanter, Working Group Chair of the IBA-ILO Project on the Future of Work, said: “The world of work is constantly evolving and as legal professionals, it is our duty to stay informed on these changes. This report provides a fascinating insight into the future of our sector and invaluable advice on how to adapt our working practices to meet the challenges we will face.”
All the reports highlight the positive impact technological advancements have had on the global workforce, including improved shareholder engagement in companies, increased awareness of pay discrepancies and the ability to work remotely. However, it says it is clear that further consideration needs to be given to the challenges technology may bring to the workplace of the future. The IBA states: “Whether it is mass unemployment due to automation, or a reduction in diversity caused by AI bias, the negative effects of digitalisation cannot be ignored. Jurisdictions must consider implementing new laws, or updating existing ones, to ensure the continued prosperity of the global workforce.”
Els de Wind, Senior Vice Chair, and incoming Co-Chair, of the IBA Global Employment Institute, stated: “Advancements in technology have changed our society dramatically, both for the better and the worse. This is especially true in the workplace, where developments such as AI and blockchain are simultaneously paving the way for innovation and rendering certain job roles obsolete. Preparation is key to ensuring the global economy not only survives, but thrives in this ever-changing world.”