Australian gig workers are set to gain the ability to negotiate for minimum pay and conditions through a new law to be introduced in parliament next week by the center-left Labor government.
The legislation aims to define “employee-like workers” in the gig economy, a category that encompasses those working for food delivery platforms or ride-hailing apps like Uber and DoorDash.
Under this law, Australia’s industrial regulator will be authorized to establish standards concerning pay, working hours, and insurance for these gig economy workers.
However, the regulator will have discretion to adjust these standards between different workplaces, and the law will not enforce uniform pay or conditions.
Employment Minister Tony Burke acknowledged that the new rules might increase complexity and costs for gig economy companies. Still, he argued that Australia needed such regulations to protect vulnerable workers, and he deemed a slight increase in prices as an acceptable trade-off.
Burke stated, “If we’re going to be a nation where you don’t have to rely on tips to make ends meet, then there needs to be some extra regulation.”
“We are talking about some of the lowest paid people in Australia, and if that means there’s a tiny bit extra you pay when your pizza arrives at your door, and they’re more likely to be safe on the roads getting there, then I reckon it’s a pretty small price to pay.”
The legal status of gig economy workers is a subject of debate in many countries. In June, EU countries reached a preliminary agreement on rules governing whether platform employers should provide employee benefits.
Public reactions from employers varied, with Uber expressing support for the push for gig economy minimum standards that preserve flexibility, while the head of Australia’s business lobby group argued that the legislation would harm workers and consumers and should not be passed.
Certain conditions, such as overtime rates or rosters, will remain beyond the regulator’s jurisdiction.
If the “Closing Loopholes Bill” is approved, it will take effect on July 1, 2024.