Algorithmic management — in which decisions about assigning tasks to workers are automated — is most often associated with the gig economy. According to the European Commission, algorithmic management is a relatively new and largely unregulated phenomenon in the platform economy ‘that poses challenges to both workers and the self-employed working through digital labour platforms’.
- European Commission: Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on improving working conditions in platform work, COM(2021)762 final
Background and status
In the Commission’s proposal for a directive to improve the working conditions of platform workers, it states its intention to introduce, for the first time, substantive rights into EU labour law to protect platform workers from abuse through algorithmic management. Until this proposal was put forward, algorithmic management was largely unregulated apart from through EU data protection rules, and was indirectly addressed by the proposal for a regulation laying down harmonised rules on artificial intelligence, adopted by the Commission in April 2021.
- European Commission: Proposal for a regulation laying down harmonised rules on artificial intelligence, COM(2021)206 final
The Commission notes that there is currently ‘insufficient transparency regarding such automated monitoring and decision-making systems and people lack efficient access to remedies in the face of decisions taken or supported by such systems’.
Main provisions of the proposal
One of the aims of the proposal is ‘to ensure fairness, transparency and accountability in algorithmic management in the platform work context’. To achieve this goal, the proposal introduces new material rights for people performing platform work. These include ‘the right to transparency regarding the use and functioning of automated monitoring and decision-making systems, which specifies and complements existing rights in relation to the protection of personal data’. The proposal also aims to ensure human monitoring of the impact of such automated systems on working conditions, with a view to safeguarding basic workers’ rights and health and safety at work.
The new rights are contained in Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the proposal. For instance, digital labour platforms must inform workers of the use and key features of automated monitoring systems and automated decision-making systems. In addition, platforms must not process any personal data concerning platform workers that are not intrinsically connected to and strictly necessary for the performance of their contract. Furthermore, platforms must evaluate the risks of automated monitoring and decision-making systems to the safety and health of platform workers and ensure that such systems do not in any manner put undue pressure on workers or otherwise put at risk their physical or mental health. Finally, the proposal introduces the right to request the platform to review an automatic decision and to obtain a substantiated reply within a week. Platforms must rectify the decision without delay or, if that is not possible, provide adequate compensation, if the decision infringes the platform worker’s rights.
Possible extension to all workers
On 10 March 2022, in the European Parliament’s resolution on a new EU strategic framework on health and safety, it invited the Commission to implement a legislative initiative setting out responsibilities and obligations linked to occupational health and safety, with regard to artificial intelligence systems and new working methods. This new framework is intended to cover not only platform workers, as provided for by the Commission’s proposal, but also all other workers. The document points to the potential adverse impacts of algorithmic management on the health and safety of workers, and cautions that the algorithms used must be transparent, non-discriminatory and ethical: ‘Algorithmic decisions must be accountable, contestable and, where relevant, reversible, and consequently must be subject to human oversight’.
Members of the European Parliament also mentioned the need to ‘regulate the use of existing and new digital tools’ in another resolution adopted in July 2022.
- European Parliament: Resolution of 10 March 2022 on a new EU strategic framework on health and safety at work post 2020 (including better protection of workers from exposure to harmful substances, stress at work and repetitive motion injuries)
- European Parliament: Resolution of 5 July 2022 on mental health in the digital world of work, 2021/2098(INI) (PDF)
Related dictionary terms
Artificial intelligence ; automation ; Digital Agenda ; digital economy ; digitisation ; Framework Directive on health and safety ; harassment and violence at work ; health and safety
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