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Towards privatized social and employment protections in the platform economy? Evidence from the UK courier sector

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posted on 2023-06-10, 04:53 authored by Steven RolfSteven Rolf, Jacqueline O'ReillyJacqueline O'Reilly, Marc Meryon
Platform capitalism has facilitated the widespread replacement of employment contracts with contracts for services. These offer significantly fewer social and employment protections for the independent contractors engaged. What does this mean for the future of national social and employment protection (SEPs) systems? We show how the question of platform workers’ employment status – and therefore access to SEPs – remain unresolved under UK law. Drawing on socio-legal theory, we demonstrate why digital labor platforms represent a challenge to existing modes of employment law and labor market regulation. In the absence of immediate legal ‘fixes’, some unions and firms are innovating new ‘privatized social protection systems’. A ‘Self-Employed Plus’ (SE+) agreement in the UK parcel courier sector developed between Hermes, a UK-based courier service, and the GMB union represents an important example of such attempts being made to bridge the current regulatory void. We critically analyze the agreement and draw lessons for platform governance theory. We demonstrate that privatized SE+ provisions potentially offer significant benefits for platforms by reducing regulatory oversight, boosting productivity, and enhancing managerial control over platform complementors. At the same time, while they risk undermining national SEP systems and degrading worker protections, they also offer a window of opportunity for trade unions to gain a foothold in the platform economy.

History

Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Published version

Journal

Research Policy

ISSN

0048-7333

Publisher

Elsevier BV

Issue

5

Volume

51

Page range

a104492 1-13

Department affiliated with

  • Management Publications

Full text available

  • Yes

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date

2022-09-27

First Open Access (FOA) Date

2022-09-27

First Compliant Deposit (FCD) Date

2022-09-27

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