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European Union and digital platform workers : France rejects the presumption of salaried status !

Digital platforms are major players in our economy and this fact caught the attention of the European institutions. At the heart of their business model is the involvement of platform workers, to whom these companies subcontract all or part of a service.

According to Brussels, there are 28 million platform workers in the Member States, 5.5 million of whom are self-employed but under conditions that would make them similar to employees.

In response to this situation, the European institutions have been working since 2021 on a draft directive aimed at improving the working conditions of these workers. The text was structured around two main measures : forcing platforms to be more transparent about the operation of their algorithms and, above all, introducing a presumption of salaried status.

This last point was the subject of considerable debate within the European institutions themselves and then with the Member States. Initially, the text provided for a presumption based on five indicators echoing the hints established by the case law of the European Court of Justice. If two of these indicators were met, the worker would have been presumed to be an employee.

Although this idea was abandoned, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament finally reached an agreement on 13 December 2023. The latest version of this draft directive provided for a presumption of salaried status triggered :
« when facts indicating control and direction are present, according to national law and collective agreements in place, as well as taking into account the case law of the European Court of Justice » [1].

Submitted to the representatives of the Member States on 9 February 2024, this draft was rejected due to an inadequate majority to continue the adoption process.

France is one of the main opponents of this text, a position that is easy to explain given the current state of French law.

In contrast to the draft directive, platform workers are presumed to be self-employed. Moreover, despite this status, they already enjoy rights and benefits that did not appear in the draft directive.

As an example, digital platforms are obliged – subject to certain conditions – to pay the workplace accident insurance contributions of these workers, to top up their professional training accounts and to pay certain contributions.

Platform workers also have collective rights, such as the ability to form and join a trade union and assert their interests.

Collective agreements have already been signed with some of these unions, especially in the delivery services sector. As an example, agreements have been reached regarding the arrangements for terminating commercial relationships between platforms and these workers and a minimum income guarantee has been set up [2].

These few points illustrate the divergence of approach between France and the European Union. Unlike Brussels, Paris believes that improving working conditions does not necessarily require to be an employee !

[1European Parliament press release published on 8 February 2024

[2Agreement of 20 April 2023 governing the terms and conditions of termination of commercial relationships between self-employed workers and digital platforms ; Agreement of 20 April 2023 introducing a minimum income guarantee for self-employed delivery drivers using a digital platform