The government plans to introduce new rights for gig economy workers following a landmark decision by the Fair Work Commission.
The changes will involve the creation of a new category of “employee” that will cover gig economy workers.
Food delivery riders and rideshare drivers will be entitled to a minimum wage and protection from unfair dismissal as a result.
New rights for gig economy workers
Currently, gig workers have flexible but insecure employment arrangements.
They are not entitled to minimum rates of pay, annual leave and sick leave, and superannuation.
Additionally, companies such as Uber, Menulog and Deliveroo can cut access to their apps at any time.
Employment Minister Tony Burke said the government wants to create protections for gig workers.
At the same time, he also wants to maintain the flexibility and the benefits of technology that the sector offers.
“We want to add a new category of people who are ’employee like’,” he said.
“And if you are ’employee like’ to the extent that you’re like an employee, the Fair Work Commission can determine what the appropriate minimum standards are for those workers.”
Mr Burke’s comments come a day after the full bench of the Fair Work Commission overturned an earlier landmark decision.
The original decision found that a sacked Deliveroo rider was an employee rather than an independent contractor.
Deliveroo later appealed the decision.
Although the Commission criticised the way the company treated the rider, it found that technically he could not be defined as an “employee”.
Therefore, he was not entitled to protection from unfair dismissal.
Class of ‘working poor’
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said current gig arrangements create a class of “working poor” in Australia.
“In many cases, the people delivering our food are earning as little as two dollars an hour,” he said.
“They cannot afford to take a sick day or any holidays and, in addition to that, the companies can cut them off from their apps at any time.”
Mr Heffernan also noted the cost of earning no superannuation on the wider community.
“When these people retire without any super, they will require the aged pension and be an additional burden on our social safety net,” he said.
“The United States is full of people who work two or three jobs just to pay the rent – they are a class of working poor – and we don’t want that for any Australian.”
Consultation on rights for gig workers
Mr Burke echoed Mr Heffernan’s comments.
He confirmed the government is consulting with business groups on the best way to implement the proposed changes.
“Effectively, I don’t want Australia to be a country where you have to rely on tips to be able to make ends meet,” he said.
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Fair Work Claims is a private consultancy and advocacy firm with no affiliation to any government agency, commission or tribunal.