Australia’s gig economy set for major reform

The country’s gig economy faces a seismic shift as new legislation could reshape conditions and rights for “employee-like workers”.
By: | September 4, 2023

Australia’s gig economy is on the brink of transformation as the government prepares to introduce a bill this week that could revolutionise employee conditions and rights. Under the proposed legislation, the Fair Work Commission would gain authority to establish minimum standards for “employee-like workers” in digital platforms, starting 1 July 2024.

This move follows a prior commitment to regulate the gig economy, with a focus on improving safety and conditions for employees. The bill aligns with a broader initiative to provide equal pay for labour-hire employees, combating wage theft, and enhancing the rights of casual employees.

Tony Burke, Minister for Workplace Relations, will unveil the bill after months of consultations with digital labour platforms, unions, and employers. The bill grants parties the ability to seek orders from the commission for minimum standards related to pay, penalty, rates, insurance, and crucially, protection against “unfair deactivation”.

The concept of “deactivation” entails the expulsion of gig economy employees from a platform, thus rendering them unable to generate income through that avenue. These regulations aim to counterbalance the notion of employee independence often associated with the gig economy.

The reforms target gig economy employees with limited bargaining power or authority over their work and who receive compensation below comparable employee rates. While these employees will remain independent contractors, the legislation could establish minimum rates per hour or job, without affecting overtime rates or engagement protocols.

READ MORE: Redefining of casual work in Australia spark concerns over flexibility and pay

Importantly, the reforms aim to prevent arbitrary deactivation of gig economy employees and offer dispute resolution through the Fair Work Commission, reported The Guardian.

Burke said, “We’re not trying to turn people into employees when they don’t want to be employees. A whole lot of gig employees like the flexibility from using this technology and that won’t change under our laws. But just because someone is working in the gig economy shouldn’t mean that they end up being paid less than they would if they’d been an employee.”